Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: An end to the fighting

In a photograph of New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) speaking on Thursday at a review of the government’s Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program proposal, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) is leaning on the podium blowing a whistle, a look of cold determination on her face. She is trying to deter Huang from making his point and disrupt the review of the proposals.

“All you [KMT lawmakers] do is blow whistles and yell meaningless slogans,” Huang said. “It seems as if the KMT is helping the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) approve the budget without allowing an examination of it.”

Huang made a similar observation at a news conference two weeks ago, when he criticized the KMT for “throwing a tantrum” and allowing the DPP to pass the bill at the legislature’s Economics Committee without proper review.

During that committee meeting, KMT Legislator Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), the party’s caucus whip, flipped over a table in protest. In Thursday’s meeting, the fifth attempt to review the proposed bill, he threw flour and water over other legislators after he and DPP Legislator Chung Kung-chao (鍾孔炤) got into a shoving match. He was then chased and struck by DPP Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩).

Scenes like this are all too common in Taiwan’s legislature and they are a national disgrace. If you type “Legislative Yuan” in Chinese in a YouTube search, the first predictive text suggested search is “legislative yuan fighting.”

Thursday’s meeting started at 9am — with paramedics apparently on standby — but was promptly called to recess 20 minutes later because of the chaos that broke out and not resumed until after 3pm, wasting an entire day that could have been given to reasoned debate.

The infrastructure program is a set of proposals to stimulate sectors and industries nationwide with a budget of NT$880 billion (US$29 billion) over eight years. It is a complex plan that would clearly lead to much disagreement among governing and opposition parties as to how exactly the stimulus packages are to be budgeted and managed.

One would imagine there to be a certain amount of cross-party consensus on the need for infrastructure improvements, industrial upgrades and development of emerging sectors, such as renewable energy sources and digital technology. Surely, it is incumbent on the nation’s elected representatives, irrespective of party affiliation, to iron out the best possible plan for the future of the nation and the people. This is no time for petty politics and adolescent fighting.

Presumably the stalling and scuffling in parliament is not the work of individual maverick legislators, but the KMT’s official strategy to derail the government’s proposals.

Is it really necessary? The KMT might well feel that this behavior is its only means of halting the plan, given that it lacks a legislative majority. However, this is only true if the passage of government proposals were always a simple game of numbers.

In a healthy democracy there is room for party members to vote against the party whip: The passage of laws should not be a foregone conclusion, nor should the majority party caucus provide a mere rubber stamp for government dictates.

The legislative chamber should be a forum for reasoned debate and consensus-building, embracing ideas from different lawmakers. The Legislative Yuan’s frequent descent into chaos and juvenile jostling is not only ridiculous, but hugely detrimental to the nation.

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