LETTERS: Keeping conversation open

Sun, Mar 16, 2008 - Page 8

Although I am not a citizen of the Republic of China and can not vote, as a long term resident I regard myself a citizen of the "Environment of Taiwan" in which I have an equal responsibility (to safeguard its health) and an equal stake (that it safeguards my health). I call all those that share this "citizenship," Taiwanese.

Every Taiwanese that is eligible to vote, now has a responsibility to choose a president who will manage Taiwan over the next four years.

The Taiwanese waited under colonial rule from 1624 until 1996 for the privilege of holding the highest executive position periodically to account. For the last 12 years they have actively exercised this right.

Self determination is now an accepted and inalienable part of life allowing Taiwanese to manage their own affairs and select a president as steward of Taiwan's environment and all its inhabitants.

This particular election is not about identity, origin or culture. It is about a sustainable future.

All people who breathe, eat and drink in Taiwan are equal stakeholders in receiving the contingent, unforeseen and damaging effects of unmanaged economic development and the systematically under-reported pollution it causes.

We are all mutually affected by neglect of our environment since no political, economic or cultural division exempts anyone in Taiwan from suffering when our air is contaminated, our water toxic and our food poisonous.

Maintaining a sustainable level of economic growth whilst ensuring the protection of the environment and the provision of vital public services is essential to the building of social justice, in itself the foundation of a healthy democracy and a more peaceful society. A country is only as strong as its least healthy elements.

Last year's 5.7 percent increase in GDP is an astounding economic victory for Taiwanese. However, the exploitation of Southeast Asian workers, neglect of the disabled and those with special needs, the inexorable rise in carbon emissions, the continuing collaboration of underground elements, business and political parties in an unholy trinity, the number of deaths on the road and the extent of domestic abuse are all moral defeats.

Nevertheless, these issues are better addressed in the case of a more proportional sharing of power between the main arms of the state among different parties than in the case of an elective dictatorship, where the same party holds the presidency and a majority in the legislature.

The practice of democracy is best achieved within a context of genuine multiparty participation that gives voice to a diversity of social concerns and which accurately and proportionately represents the will of the people.

It is facilitated by a nationwide conversation without which social justice would be impossible.

In muting that conversation the one-party state rule that Taiwan witnessed under martial law was able to criminally manipulate the Taiwanese people, their economy and their environment for the profit of the ruling minority.

A combined KMT legislature and presidency is certain to stifle and once again stop that conversation, effectively sending Taiwan back to 1992 at a time when we should be thinking about 2092.

Taiwan's ecological and economic systems will be most protected by a domestic pluralistic polity that retains full sovereignty and control of its own markets and its own environment.

This is only guaranteed by one of the presidential candidates -- making him the obvious choice on principle.

Only a sovereign administration, physically and ideologically beholden to Taiwan, will be able to effectively carry out its duty to marshall the "Environment of Taiwan" and fulfill its mandate to protect the physical, mental and spiritual health of the country, and the generations of its citizens to come.

I endorse Frank Hsieh for the presidency of Taiwan.

Ben Goren