Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: It's never too late

By Huang Jei-hsuan

President Chen delivered a couple of speeches at the end of last month, elaborating on the necessity of including territorial definition in Taiwan's new constitution and the need to launch referendums on both the disposition of "transitional justice," especially as related to the KMT's stolen assets, and mandating the use of the name of Taiwan in place of Republic of China (ROC) in the nation's bid for UN membership.

Not unexpectedly, Chen's detractors ridiculed his speeches as lame attempts to divert public attention away from his alleged corruption.

Even among Chen's supporters, there is no shortage of those who would opine that he is either too late or too powerless to do anything toward achieving his latest initiatives.

But knee-jerk denigrations such as these are beside the point, given that what he is advocating fall into the category of either furthering the nation's democracy or enhancing nation's sovereignty, all civic duties of every Taiwanese.

Granted that Chen's position affords him the nation's "bully pulpit," albeit in a voice much weakened lately -- to signal the go-ahead, both external and internal factors would dictate that the heavy lifting has to be shared by all Taiwanese. The question of whether "he" can or can't accomplish them is therefore immaterial.

So is timing, given that the well-worn adage "better late than never" sounds more fitting than trite here.

What kept Chen from raising the subject of "transitional justice" previously -- except during campaigns -- stemmed from his failure to recognize the fact that a satisfactory resolution to this subject is paramount to long-term domestic tranquility. Now is as good a time as any to rectify this problem.

Moreover, the KMT's infamous looting of the nation has been repeatedly condemned as the culprit that poisons Taiwan's democracy today. It is also why the KMT is branded an oddity among political parties in democratic societies. These riches make it impossible to have a level playing field in Taiwan's politics. Removing this ill-gotten wealth from the KMT's coffers should not be delayed.

Under prodding from reporters, the US State Department reacted to Chen's speeches by reminding Chen that as far as Taiwan's territorial definition was concerned, he was still bound by a straitjacket and that there would be consequences should he make any rash move. But those warnings sound more like a broken record.

The people in Foggy Bottom continue to ignore that Taiwan's archaic Constitution -- which claims China and Mongolia as parts of the nation's territory -- has given the Taiwanese people a severe case of identity crisis which threatens to tear the country apart and halt its democratic progress.

Recent comments by a former Japanese defense chief identified the lack of internal consensus as the most pressing problem in Taiwan's national security.

He must have drawn that conclusion from the fact that the pan-blue coalition doesn't see China as a military threat and hence doesn't see the need for Taiwan to arm, that the military is at a loss as to who its enemy is and what land it is defending and that near-term political expediency often trumps long-term planning which is indispensable in building a nation's deterrence capabilities.

Akin to the conundrum of "putting the cart in front of the horse," the US' desire for Taiwan to arm both physically and psychologically appears increasingly unattainable without first shelving its long-standing policy of opposing inclusion of territorial definition in Taiwan's Constitution.

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