Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The albatross of KMT party assets

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is expected to place the party-run Central Investment Holding Co (中央投資公司) in trust before July 1 to resolve the longstanding issue of its stolen party assets. But the KMT is sticking its head in the sand by believing that the problem will disappear if its money and the land it owns are held in trust.

The real problem lies in the fact that the party assets are public property stolen by the previous authoritarian regime. What many resent is the authoritarian rule that these assets represent. As long as the assets continue to exist, so does the KMT's political debt.

Some wise men at the KMT clearly know that the problem is not the management of these assets, but rather that the party has them at all. Recently, Chen Chang-wen (陳長文), a lawyer and convener of the party's asset disposition supervisory committee, suggested the party give up all of the assets and that legal responsibility be apportioned for the party's massive investment losses if they resulted from corruption. The suggestion was not accepted by the party and Chen resigned his post. His suggestion conforms to public opinion, however, and is the right way to handle the issue. The party thus lost another chance to put the issue behind it and start anew.

The KMT's refusal to accept Chen's suggestion boils down to one thing: greed. Facing presidential and legislative elections and a burning desire to return to power with expensive party affairs and staff costs, the party is in need of money. It won't be easy to get the KMT to voluntarily give up the perks of power -- the reliance on its party assets. But even if the KMT itself does not manage its funds, it still owns the assets and a share of the profits of the trust they will be placed in. A bandit can't escape reproach and prosecution just by putting his or her loot in a trust.

If the KMT keeps its assets, it should be aware that they will be a heavy weight around its neck. Can the party prove in court that those assets were all acquired legally? Can it really convince us that keeping the assets is reasonable and fair to other parties? Will the party be able to win enough support to survive a referendum on party assets, and will it be able to avoid being bogged down by the issue in the legislative and presidential elections?

At the KMT's 17th National Congress last Sunday, a clause stripping members of the right to stand for election if convicted in the first instance was removed to ensure that KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be able to run for president, thus exploding the myth of Ma's high moral standing.

Placing its party assets in a trust shows that the party remains morally corrupt and wants to continue enjoying the fruits of dictatorship. A majority of KMT members surely understand the symbolic meaning of the assets, but they are unable to give up a convenient advantage.

How can such a party convince people that it will step out from the shadow of the past as a new force? How will it convince them that victory in next year's presidential election would not mean it would use the power to fatten itself?

If the KMT cannot make up its mind, a referendum must be held to tell it that its assets are tainted and should be returned to the public purse.

And that it owes all of Taiwan an apology.

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