Fri, Feb 20, 2009 - Page 1 News List

EXCLUSIVE MA YING-JEOU INTERVIEW: Nothing to fear from a CECA with Beijing: Ma

The government’s cross-strait policies have prompted concerns over the potential impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty. In an interview with staff reporters Huang Tai-lin, Ko Shu-ling and Mo Yan-chih and executive deputy editor-in-chief Charles Cheng on Wednesday, President Ma Ying-jeou responded to his critics, calling on the public to have confidence in Taiwan despite the obstacles it faces in securing participation in international organizations

Ma: No, that is a different matter. Do you know Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area? It states that all treaties that require legal revision or legislation must be reviewed by the legislature.

Cross-strait direct transportation links are regulated by Article 95.1. In other words, because the agreements did not require any legal amendment, they automatically took effect when the legislature failed to review them within one month.

The economic pact is regulated by Article 5. Once it is signed, it must be approved by the legislature. It cannot be implemented if the legislature doesn’t approve it.

TT: But in view of the current political makeup of the legislature, it seems the opinions of the opposition and the public are not well represented.

Ma: I don’t think so. The voices of the 27 DPP legislators sound pretty loud to me.

TT: Many people, however, question whether lawmakers are truly reflecting public concerns, or merely their parties’ stances. And some have also wondered whether the government, in its negotiations for a CECA, is listening only to the voices of big companies and such, not the public.

Ma: What we have is a representative system. If you want to change it and decide everything via referendums, it will be very hard for the government to operate. I don’t think such a system exists in the world. So it needs to go through the legislature, which represents the people and is elected by the people. If you do not think the legislature can represent the people, how do you expect the system to work?

TT: You said during the presidential campaign that all major government policies must be supported by public consensus and that referendums are one option in soliciting public opinion. Are you now ruling out referendums as an option?

Ma: Do you think direct transportation links are a major issue? Many polls show that 60 percent of the public supports the initiative, but do you think it is necessary to hold a referendum?

A referendum is an option, but it is not the only option. Referendums are time-consuming and expensive. A referendum costs about NT$300 million [US$8.8 million], or NT$500 million to hold. It also takes time to promote. If the government were to hold a referendum for every major policy, it would be very hard for the government to operate. We simply cannot hold a referendum because some people are against a government initiative.

TT: You just mentioned opinion polls. Do you think opinion surveys can replace referendums? They poll only a small pool of people.

Ma: So you think opinion polls are not credible?

TT: You’ve always said opinion polls are for reference only. Are you saying now that opinion polls can be used in deciding a major government policy or issues pertaining to the national interest?

Ma: It is more reliable if there is more than one opinion poll conducted by different institutions over a period of time.

It is like a blood test. While only 1 percent of your blood is needed for the test, it is impossible to take all the blood out of your body. Opinion polls must be conducted in a modern and scientific manner. However, opinion polls are not absolute. They cannot solve all problems, but referendums sometimes are not the best remedy.

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