In civic education classes, young people are often taught that elections are held so voters can scrutinize a candidate’s integrity and competency to determine which one can best serve the public. They are also taught that those who are elected to public office are meant to serve the people and work toward the common good of the nation. It was therefore disheartening to see how, under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) chairmanship, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is failing to set a good example by instructing its lawmakers to vote according to the party line instead of listening to their constituencies’ needs.
On Friday last week, five KMT lawmakers voted against the party’s line by siding with the opposition in favor of motions calling for an immediate halt to the construction of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) and for the legislature to establish an ad hoc committee to investigate the plant’s safety.
By being true to their own conscience and representing the concerns of their constituencies, these lawmakers have been deemed mavericks by the KMT leadership for refusing to toe the party line and defying the “Grade-A mobilization order” issued to all KMT caucus members to block motions about the power plant tabled by the opposition. As such, they are at risk of being disciplined with a fine of at least NT$10,000.
In a similar case earlier this month, the civic group Green Citizens’ Action Alliance said that a survey it had distributed among all lawmakers to gauge their views on the plant had received a lukewarm response from KMT legislators, which suggested that the party was attempting to muzzle its lawmakers from expressing personal views about the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, especially given that KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) expressly said that the caucus had decided not to respond to any surveys about the power plant.
Civil servants are on the taxpayers’ payroll and their job description calls for them to serve the public, not a particular party. Regrettably, it seems that a good number of KMT lawmakers, despite being voted into office, boast an unflagging loyalty to their party instead of to the very people who entrusted them with legislative power.
Fortunately, there are also many conscientious lawmakers such as KMT legislators Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) and Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), who, as they demonstrated in the plenary session on Friday last week, have bravely come forward to stand on the side of the public.
With the KMT’s proposal for a referendum to decide the fate of the power plant slated to be put on tomorrow’s legislative agenda and the public’s lingering concerns about the safety of the plant, hopefully many more legislators will search their hearts and reignite their commitment to serving the public interest that prompted them to dedicate themselves to public service in the first place. Hopefully, these legislators will take the brave step of breaking away from the party line and make themselves worthy of their pay and of the respect of their constituencies.
After all, all legislators — whether in the ruling or opposition parties — are given a mandate by the electorate to make laws that ensure the public’s best interests, and are entrusted with the duty of monitoring the executive branch. They are certainly not supposed to stand against mainstream public opinion and cover up for the administrative branch.