Editorial: Good legislation is color-blind

Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 8

Riding on the campaign to oust President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is now demanding that bills on lobbying and political parties be passed during the next legislative session together with amendments to laws on the property interests of public servants and political donations.

These changes have been discussed for years, yet a series of anti-corruption bills are still awaiting review thanks to the pan-blue camp's obstructionist majority in the legislature. It has been a long time since the Cabinet submitted the bill that would form an anti-corruption bureau investigating corruption among public servants, yet even this potentially popular piece of legislation is still languishing.

Smarting from accusations of corruption against Presidential Office staff and members of the first family, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has proposed that nine "sunshine laws" be a priority for the next legislative session -- these are bills for an anti-corruption bureau, lobbying conduct, legislator conduct, conflicts of interest for officials and the disposition of assets improperly obtained by political parties, as well as amendments to the Law on Property Declaration by Public Servants, the Public Officials Election and Recall Law, the Political Donations Law and the Political Parties Law.

The DPP's nine sunshine laws cover more ground than the KMT's four sunshine laws. The DPP's proposals regulate not only public servant exercise of power but also conflicts of interests after retirement or in subsequent employment, the acceptance of political donations and lobbying in the legislature. They are stricter and more sophisticated, and extend to party assets and political donations as well as campaign spending.

It is a positive thing that the government and the opposition say that the passage of bills of this nature is a top priority. In this respect, a comparison between the government's nine proposals and the opposition's four is not a matter of nine being more or better than four. Rather, Taiwan needs to take the best of all proposals to establish a system of oversight that is practical, conforms to demands for social justice and that is difficult to evade.

If legislators from both camps can find the wisdom to put aside their political differences and treat each bill or amendment on its merits, then we may yet be able to establish a mechanism of prevention and punishment that can transform the political and bureaucratic spheres.

The objective of proposing these sunshine bills is to pursue clean governance and set up a system of regulations that create a reasonable and reliable relationship between politicians and business circles. It is hoped that the government and the opposition will heed the public's poor view of corruption and desire for cleaner government.

This can only happen if a temporary halt is called to the knee-jerk reactions based on opposition to or support for Chen. If this happens, the pain of this crisis may still not rob Taiwan of an opportunity to distance partisan wrangling from the production of much-needed (and non-partisan) legislation.