Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: A slap in the face of history

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) caused an uproar this week by proposing that 228 Memorial Day no longer be a public holiday. Backtracking in the face of a wave of criticism from families, friends and sympathizers of 228 Massacre victims, Wu announced the following day that he would drop the proposal in the legislature.

While the hubbub appears to have died down, the very fact that Wu thought he could submit such a proposal demonstrates an apparent ignorance of Taiwan’s history and a lack of respect for the country and its people.

No history of Taiwan can be told without references to the 228 Massacre. The calamity could be billed as the darkest days in Taiwan’s post-World War II history. It left a deep imprint on the nation’s psyche and had a profound impact on the country’s development. It ushered in the White Terror, during which tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured and killed, while others lived in fear under the watchful eyes of the notorious Taiwan Garrison Command. To this day, many survivors of the victims live with agony and grief; some still don’t know where the remains of their loved ones were buried.

The government’s designation of Feb. 28 as a national day of mourning was part of the country’s healing process. Sixty-two years have passed and while the wounds may have healed, the scars remain. Wu’s comment that 228 was not worth holiday status ripped open those scars. What was he thinking?

That Wu, whom the media considers a key member of “Ma’s corps,” even pitched the idea shows he and many others like him have not learned their history lessons. But perhaps he was simply seeking his master’s approval.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has met 228 victims’ families many times in recent years and expressed regret over the incident. He also acknowledged the KMT’s “political” responsibility for 228 and promised to continue research into the incident and its aftermath. However, shortly after he took office in May, construction of the planned 228 National Memorial Hall was halted and the budget for the 228 Memorial Foundation was slashed by the KMT-controlled legislature. This latest move by a “Ma corps” member makes one question Ma’s sincerity once again, after his backtracking on promises to return the KMT’s stolen assets and so many other things. What about Ma’s claim to know what it meant to be Taiwanese?

The government’s recent announcement that it would remove the name plaque at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall and replace it with the original Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaque has also done little to assuage the feelings of those injured by the 228 Incident. How will they feel having to once again see the name of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who was singled out by the 2006 academic research report titled 228 Incident: A Report on Responsibility for his role in the matter, in full display and extolled by the Ma administration?

Wu, Ma and their brethren should heed the advice of Holocaust survivor and renowned author Elie Wiesel.

“I have tried to keep the memory alive. I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty ... not to remember would turn us into accomplices of the killers, to remember would turn anyone into a friend of the victims,” Wiesel said in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

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