Dismissing Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) proposal for an interparty legislative task force to monitor the government’s performance on cross-strait matters, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated in an interview published yesterday that the legislature’s committees already fulfill the function of keeping the government in check.
“Don’t amend the system, because it isn’t flawed. Letting it run as usual will do,” Ma was quoted as saying in the interview with the Chinese-language China Times.
But is the system indeed flawless and are officials complying with the rules? Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) failed to report to the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee two days in a row, which was one reason behind yesterday’s clash between Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華).
Legislative committees will be hard pressed to monitor the government’s policies if officials do not report to them on those policies and field lawmakers’ questions.
In recent days, the Mainland Affairs Council has been running ads on TV assuring viewers that the government’s China policies will not jeopardize Taiwan’s sovereignty or national interest.
Public skepticism is not likely to dissipate, however, considering that the government’s prime negotiator in talks with China has repeatedly failed to brief lawmakers on crucial details. And if legislators feel they know few specifics, the public will have been told even less.
This weekend, Chiang is scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), to discuss matters including direct sea links and expanding direct air links. It seems clear at this point that the two sides will forge ahead with agreements on these issues, making Chiang’s absence from the legislative meeting even more disconcerting.
Considering that neither lawmakers nor the public are adequately informed on the content of such talks — nor in a position to supervise the decision-making process — it is difficult to understand the president’s confidence in the health of the nation’s checks and balances.
An effective means of supervision is urgently needed, now that the Ma administration intends to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with Beijing without first submitting it for approval to legislative vote, referendum or both. The government is denying legislators and the public the right to comment on whether an ECFA would be in Taiwan’s best interests.
Transparency must be the government’s goal, now more than ever. Despite Ma’s confidence, the legislature’s committees do not seem able to ensure that transparency exists and so allay public concerns. His categorical rejection of an interparty legislative task force may therefore leave observers with the impression that strengthening checks and balances is not high on the government’s list of priorities.