Letter: Time for compromise

By Ben Goren  / 

Tue, Dec 05, 2006 - Page 8

Premier Su Tseng-chang's (蘇貞昌) recent comments that the special allowance fund controversies were the result of a historical glitch and that no individual was at fault were startling for a number of reasons.

This line of argument was previously used by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to suggest that the 228 Incident massacres and the issue of the KMT's stolen assets were beyond the scope of criminal or legal investigation and, more importantly, not valid for moral judgement and public debate.

It is repeated today with the double standard expressed through KMT Legislator Hong Hsiu-chu's (洪秀柱) statement that the state affairs fund and the special allowances fund should be treated differently.

To which I ask Hong, on what basis? In both cases, past and current political figures at nearly all levels of the national administration, working within a state structure inherited from a corrupt authoritarian government, have been the beneficiaries of certain funds over which far less than rigorous accounting has been exercised.

The President is indicted over embezzlement but prosecutors ignore former KMT chairmen Lien Chan (連戰), Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and the remaining elements of the Chiang family, which logically, would be the first people you'd look at for evidence of considerable personal gain from public funds.

The a historical and illogical reasoning of Su and Hong is symptomatic of Taiwan's rapid development, which symbolically and physically has rapidly built over history that is unpleasant to the eye or the mind, or which might later be evidence of deep scale corruption amongst ruling elites on all sides of the political spectrum.

Forget history! Build for the future! But what future? In what country? Under whose rules? I believe it is deeply destructive and counter-productive to disregard, simplify, apologize away or sensationalize history. It also undermines any current attempt to establish an honest political and judicial system that has integrity.

Premier Su's comments fall into the trap of the apologist, for which he can be rightly criticized, offering as he does universal absolution without requiring any repentance or future intent of honesty on the part of the still living guilty.

However, the current shambles of politicians and media egoists running around slapping each other with lawsuits is also an unsustainable form of democratic expression and simply reveals itself for what it is, a cut-throat, winner takes all, zero sum game for Taiwan, whether conducted legally or physically.

It is unsurprising that Taiwan struggles to come to terms with it's past and find it's identity. Many of the leading countries in the world face a similar problem. The Taiwanese can choose to emulate Premier Su, and my neighbor, who proudly wears a German Wehrmacht World War II motorcycle helmet as a fashion accessory, oblivious to and uncaring of it's historical context, or they can choose a more constructive approach.

Since compromise is often an end result of war, why not start at that position? One idea could be to declare a general amnesty for all government officials at all levels, including the president.

This would be done in lieu of a referendum on a new Constitution and national title, fresh elections for all national governmental positions (with incumbents prevented from running), the restructuring of the national government with a clear separation of powers, the establishment of an independent military that is loyal to the polity of Taiwan and not the Republic of China and an amnesty for the KMT and their assets, should they rescind their pledge of unification (read economic opportunism) and recognize and swear loyalty to Taiwan whether they are the ruling or opposition party?

In this way, Chinese elites and their assets would not be threatened and in return they would be required to share the burden of living in, protecting and nurturing this country in the face of China's imperial ambitions (read internal disintegration).

Ben Goren