Thu, Oct 04, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Justice commission must be neutral

Premier William Lai (賴清德) on Tuesday apologized over the controversial remarks by former Transitional Justice Commission deputy chairman Chang Tien-chin (張天欽). Chang had allegedly solicited ways to turn public opinion against Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) New Taipei City mayoral candidate Hou You-yi (侯友宜).

For the sake of social reconciliation, it is important that the work of the commission is carried out, and for this to be undertaken in as neutral, non-partisan and unreproachable a manner as possible.

Lai said that the commission is a politically neutral and independent body, despite the damage done to its image by Chang.

Commission Chairman Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) has also said that the commission “transcends partisan politics.” That is a tough message to get across in Taiwan’s deeply divided politics.

The crux of the problem is as follows.

The transitional justice project, and the Transitional Justice Commission, has been initiated to find the truth behind historical abuses of power by the KMT regime from the post-World War II period to Nov. 6, 1992.

Many of the abuses are well-documented and widely — if not universally — acknowledged, but many questions remain about the facts, the events themselves and the involvement — as well as the nature of that involvement — of certain individuals or groups.

Many of these individuals are still alive. In some cases they are still active in public and political life.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has initiated the transitional justice project. Neither the party, nor its members, were in power during the aforementioned period. On the contrary, many of its members were victims of the power abuses, and many are still alive and active in public and political life.

Some say that the trial of the now-imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was rigged. If that argument holds credence, that would make Chen a victim of abuse by a vestige of KMT regime practices and its party-state mindset still surviving today.

Now that the DPP is in control of the presidency as well as the legislative and executive branches, it too is open to accusations of abuse of power. Those accusations have primarily been levied by the KMT, which is now the main opposition party.

The revelation of historical abuses of power is politically damaging to the KMT and politically useful for the DPP.

Many current members of the KMT were working for the party or the regime when the abuses took place. They are therefore associated with the abuses, whether or not they were directly implicated in them. This would include former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Hou.

The commission is under the Cabinet, which is controlled by one side of the argument.

Although the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) requires no more than three of the nine commissioners to come from any one political party, the premier designates the chairperson and deputy chairperson.

Although the nominees are to be voted upon in the legislature, the process was in May boycotted by the KMT caucus.

That the KMT boycotts and obstructs the commission’s progress surprises nobody. If the KMT regains power, few would be surprised if the DPP tries to obstruct its attempts to hobble the project.

The question is, will the transitional justice project, and the commission charged with carrying it through, ever be seen as anything other than political? Is there any way that it can escape the partisan mire? It is important that it does.

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