The way the whole process has been carried out, with its fairness, its transparency and the degree of public participation, can serve as a model for how meetings of this kind should be held.
The delay in the formation of a new board is not PTS’ only woe. There were spats between members of the previous board, as well as legal issues, in which things have turned quite ugly.
Four years ago, the KMT tried to bring PTS to heel by freezing its budget, triggering a protest outside the Legislative Yuan. It went on to introduce amendments to the law, including the “Lin Yi-shih (林益世) clause”— named after the former Executive Yuan secretary-general who devised it — to increase the size of the board, so it could bring in its own people and take control of the board. The Control Yuan censured the appointments because of the procedural and legal irregularities.
Then, a lawsuit against former PTS chairman Cheng Tung-liao (鄭同僚) was thrown out of court, as was one brought against his successor, Sylvia Feng (馮賢賢), whose performance was exemplary, but who was deemed “insubordinate.”
Control of the press is inherent in a party-state system, as evidenced by the fact that the prohibition on launching new newspapers was lifted in 1988, two years after the prohibition on new political parties was lifted in 1986. The current farce over forming the new PTS board demonstrates how difficult it is to change this.
Whether the disputes among board members can be resolved lies in the hands of the KMT authorities. They owe Feng and Cheng a public and sincere apology, as well as compensation.
As for the formation of the new boards, the nominees recommended by either side should be accepted as quickly as possible, so there can be a balanced and representative list. Any problems the KMT has with these names should be addressed. If this is done, there is no reason why the new boards cannot be formed within a short period of time.
Many people are talking about amending the law, and even putting everything on hold until such changes can be made, placing the responsibility for appointing board members in the hands of the Cabinet. This would not be a good idea. Yes, the three-quarters approval threshold is quite high, but it exemplifies the essence of PTS as being for the entire public, and not something that only one party or person can control.
The problems with nominating a new board lie with individuals, not the law, so there is no reason to amend it. And if the law is amended, these changes should only apply to future boards; they should not be implemented immediately. That would be like changing the rules halfway through a sports competition: It makes no sense, and violates universal principles.
Neither does calling for the review committee to operate an open ballot make any sense. The Ministry of the Interior’s regulations governing meetings clearly stipulate that votes for individuals should be done, in the tried and tested way, with a closed ballot. As for the idea of open ballots for votes on policy, it is already an accepted principle. It would not be wise to violate conventions or universal principles just for the sake of one PTS board term.
Lu Shih-hsiang is an adviser to the Taipei Times.
Translated by Paul Cooper