Sat, Aug 25, 2012 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Nobbling the horse

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) likes operating in the dark, behind closed doors, with few in the know and several sets of books. What else can explain its long-standing aversion to passing sunshine laws? It is certainly not acting in the public’s interest.

The KMT likes keeping people in the dark so much that even one of its own officials, the one theoretically in charge of reviewing a draft political parties act, did not know why the bill was pulled from the Cabinet’s agenda on Thursday. The Executive Yuan spokesman could only say that some problems still needed to be worked out, but could not say what those pesky problems were.

Of course, any explanation the spokesman could come up with would likely sound as lame as that offered by Minister Without Portfolio Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪), who is in charge of reviewing the act, and who said she had asked a colleague to find out why the draft was pulled from the agenda, but then had been too busy working to call that colleague for the answer. One would think that the minister might have wanted to find out on her own, since she is in charge of the bill, but maybe ministers, even without portfolios, do not make their own phone calls.

What Luo could say was that the draft would bar political parties from investing in property and making money and it would set a two-year time limit for parties to transfer ownership or sell off all their assets. It was a complete set of regulations about political parties, including how to found one, she said.

You can see why the KMT might be feeling a bit nervous. After all, this is the party that transferred millions of dollars worth of state property and facilities to fill its own coffers, making it the richest political party in the world for decades. It is led by a man who has repeatedly promised to resolve the stolen party asset issue — and promote the sunshine laws — but has proven as incapable of doing that as he has keeping the majority of his presidential campaign promises. It is also the party and the man who have made sure that the proceeds of any party assets that have been sold off have been returned to the party’s coffers, not the national treasury where they rightfully belong.

The political party act was first mooted back in 2005 when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in office. At that time the KMT said it wanted four sunshine bills, including the political party bill, a lobbying bill, amendments to the 1993 Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Act (公務人員財產申報法) and some changes to the 2004 Political Donations Act (政治獻金法). The DPP had nine bills it wanted to see passed, including its versions of a party law and lobbying law. In addition, it wanted laws regulating the behavior of legislators and public servants (including conflict of interest and property declaration), among others.

Even though the KMT has held a legislative majority while both in and out of power, it has somehow not been able to achieve its own goals, but did succeed in blocking the DPP’s. For example, in November 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration sent back the DPP’s version of the political party act from the legislature for further review. It took almost two more years before it had a draft of the act ready to send to the Executive Yuan, and now, another two years later, the bill still languishes in executive limbo.

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