Thu, Oct 26, 2017 - Page 14 News List

Maintaining transparency

Taiwan’s legislature has largely achieved its goal of transparency, academics said at a conference held last week in Taipei, but much work needs to be done on transitional justice

By Liam Gibson  /  Staff reporter

Cynthia Gabriel, founder of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, speaks at the Supervision over the Congress International Conference last Friday at Soochow University.

Photo Courtesy of CITIZEN Congress watch

The legislature needs to find ways to make it more appealing for the public to keep track of what it does, panelists said at Supervision over the Congress International Conference.

“We need to remember, not everyone is a political animal,” said Shih Hsin-min (施信民), former chairman of Citizen Congress Watch.

The conference, which was held at Soochow University last Friday and Saturday and brought together academics from across the Asia-Pacific region, was a lively discussion on a timely topic that aired concepts of government transparency as varied as the backgrounds of the speakers themselves.

The government is planning to have comments appear on the Web site in real time, so that the public can share their thoughts and feedback on the legislative session, former premier Simon Chang (張善政) said.

Shih said creating a system that ranks the best parts of legislative sessions would make it more appealing to the public.

“A viewer rating system could allow users to judge the quality of dialogue,” Chang added.

TRANSPARENCY AND DEVELOPMENT

Guest speaker Cynthia Gabriel, founder of the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, is based in Malaysia and sees government transparency as pivotal for the region’s development.

“If parliament is not monitored and held accountable, we’ll have a case of creeping authoritarianism,” she said, citing the 1Malaysia Development Berhad corruption scandal which has mired Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in controversy in recent months.

“The entire scandal has engulfed the nation,” she added. “He [Razak] is using public institutions to protect himself and his private interests.”

Gabriel said this is a serious transgression that has threatened parliamentary immunity.

“Even though [the Malaysian government] is hiding information from Malays, other neighboring countries are investigating,” she said.

Fellow guest speaker Donal Fariz, from Indonesian Corruption Watch, said sharing experiences is key to better understanding the common challenge of corruption.

“Corruption is a transnational crime,” he said.

NEW SOUTHBOUND POLICY

Gabriel added that in a globalized world, citizens of other countries have a role to play in exposing the corruption of other governments, particularly those within one’s own region.

“The nexus between business and politics is an important one,” Gabriel said, in response to a question regarding Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy and government transparency.

“Taiwan is disadvantaged geo-politically... Although it’s track record is by no means perfect, it defends it’s democratic values and must espouse them when it does business abroad,” she said.

Fariz said he meets a lot of Taiwanese business people in his hometown of Jakarta these days, attracted by the infrastructure projects kicked off by current Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

“Transparency combats corruption and a corruption-free environment is the foundation for investment,” Fariz said. “That’s why it’s so critical.”

HISTORICAL EXCEPTIONS

Linda Gail Arrigo, an assistant professor at Taipei Medical University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, attended the conference to raise concerns over what she sees as the government’s misuse of privacy laws in blocking the release of historical records.

In response, Chang said this may be a case where the legal statutes conflict.

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