Sat, Jan 27, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Chen raises specter of deal with KMT

TALKING BIG In what could mark a softening of the pan-green camp's approach, the president said it was time to explore the possibility of talks over the KMT's stolen assets

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), beset by scandal and legal woes, seemed to signal his willingness to compromise with the main opposition party over a controversial issue yesterday.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has long been haunted by criticism over how it has dealt with property and real estate it seized during its decades of authoritarian rule. Many public and private assets were transfered from government control to the party, with inadequate or no compensation.

The pan-green parties have often used the issue to stir up sentiment amongst supporters against the KMT.

"I personally think that the issue should be dealt with via political negotiations and speedy enactment of a new law," the president said yesterday at a forum on democracy.

KMT leaders have openly admitted the need to deal with the issue, with party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) vowing to dispose of the stolen assets before June.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has also said previously that he would be willing to negotiate on the issue, as long as the public wished to see the legislature take the lead in negotiations.

Wang said that given Ma's pledge to deal with the assets by June, it is too early to enact a new law to tackle the issue.

Chen offered the rhetorical olive branch while attending the morning session of a forum about the difficulties encountered by new democracies. The theme of the session was transitional justice and constitutional systems.

The event was organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Five ex-presidents attended the event: former South Korean president Kim Young-sam, former El Salvadorean president Francisco Guillermo Flores, former Polish president Lech Walesa, former Mongolian president Punsalmaa Ochirbat and former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk.

At the forum, Chen spoke at length about Taiwan's experience in becoming a democracy and the problems it faced in securing justice for people wronged during the Martial Law era from 1949 until 1987.

The handling of problems during the transition from authoritarianism to democracy becomes more complicated and difficult if the support and opposition to authoritarian rule is based on ethnic, national or religious identity, he said.

Evoking the "228 Incident," Chen said the authoritarian KMT regime first denied the existence of the massacre, then made an effort to play down the incident and subvert the truth.

As the perpetrators of the atrocities that occurred during the incident have not been punished, Chen said the pain felt by victims will never be healed.

The president also talked about another issue he and his party have long championed: enacting a new constitution.

Such a move would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Chen's party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is far short of the necessary votes, and the oppositiuon parties intensely oppose the idea. It is therefore unlikely that a new constitution could be created in the near future.

Nevertheless, Chen said that the time was ripe to pursue a new constitution.

"I'd like to know how come other young democracies -- such as El Salvador, South Korea, South Africa, Poland and Mongolia -- can have their own constitution, but we can't?" Chen said. "It is our joint mission to deliver a new constitution. If we don't do it today, it'll be too late tomorrow."

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