Oversight act must be overseen

By Chin Heng-wei 金恒煒  / 

Thu, Apr 17, 2014 - Page 8

On the 20th day of the Sunflower movement, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) made his move and brought an end to the deadlock between protesters and the government. Wang said that he would not call any talks between party caucuses over the cross-strait service trade before an act regulating the oversight of cross-strait agreements is formulated.

In other words, he agreed to the students’ demand that the act be passed before the agreement is reviewed. This is why pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and pro-China media had headlines shouting “Student victory!” on their front pages a few days ago.

The institutionalization of an oversight mechanism for cross-strait agreements was the most important of the student movement’s four main demands. When such a mechanism is institutionalized, the students will certainly have gained formal victory, although we will have to wait and see what happens next before we declare them truly victorious. However, the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration has lost face and it is little wonder that KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰 ) criticized Wang, saying he had “betrayed the entire KMT.”

So in what way did Ma and his cronies lose? Because they were unable to stop the Sunflower movement and had to give in on both of the demands they were adamant they would not budge the slightest on. They kept saying that not a word, not even a comma, could be changed in the agreement and that it had to be passed by the end of June — but they failed in both departments.

When the oversight act is passed, it will necessarily restrict the terms of the pact. Since the oversight act will be the enabling statute of the trade pact, any part of the pact that contradicts the act will have to be amended before it can be passed. Passing an oversight act requires a series of procedures, such as writing the law, negotiating it and submitting it to the legislative floor for three readings.

After KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung’s (張慶忠) arbitrary decision on March 18 to call an end to a legislative meeting and conclude that the review of the trade pact was finished and approved — leading to student protesters occupying the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber and the formation of the Sunflower movement — Taiwanese are following what happens in the legislature very closely and it is highly unlikely that the KMT will resort to relying on its majority in the legislature to push things through.

Also, now the political awareness of students who have not voted before has been awoken and with elections coming up in 2016, no pan-blue legislator will dare treat potential votes as a joke, especially the younger generation’s. Furthermore, passing the oversight act will take quite a while and who knows what will happen to the agreement before that happens. Wang’s promise to the students has become an unbearable weight on the shoulders of Ma and his gang: The seeds planted during the so-called “September strife” last year, when Ma attempted to remove Wang from his post as legislative speaker, are finally bearing fruit due to the Sunflower movement.

What will become of Ma? Perhaps a look at former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych could prove instructive. On March 25, Bloomberg Businessweek said that Ma and Yanukovych had two things in common: Yanukovych’s pro-Russia and anti-Ukraine stance is similar to Ma’s pro-China, anti-Taiwan stance and Yanukovych put former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in prison for seven years, just as Ma imprisoned former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) — for 25 years.

What Bloomberg Businessweek did not mention is that Yanukovych had to step down and go into exile in Russia not only because he angered Ukrainians, but also because members of Ukraine’s parliament switched sides, resulting in him losing control over the legislature.

Ma failed utterly in his attempt to oust Wang, with the result that he lost control over the legislature and enabled the students to occupy it. This enabled Wang to use legislative power to override, or at least resist, executive power.

We will have to wait and see if the pro-Wang faction within the KMT will be able to break the KMT up and cause the collapse of Ma and his cronies.

The Sunflower movement has created and rewritten Taiwanese history. The main focus now is the oversight act and every Taiwanese must get behind it to make sure that the NGO version is the one that gets passed, for this is what will ultimately decide the success of the Sunflower movement.

Chin Heng-wei is a political commentator.

Translated by Drew Cameron