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Wed, Apr 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Assembly leaders oppose sidelining justices

CONSTITUTION Retaliatory proposals tabled by the National Assembly to abolish or weaken the Council of Grand Justices won't go further, caucus leaders say

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Caucus leaders in the National Assembly yesterday spelled out their opposition to constitutional amendment proposals intended to abolish the Council of Grand Justices or limit the Council's power in interpreting the Constit-ution, just two days after they were introduced.

The proposals, which were first raised by KMT deputy Hsieh Ming-hui (謝明輝) after the Council invalidated two amendments adopted by the Assembly in September 1999, are widely considered a retaliatory measure against the grand justices.

The proposals managed to pass an Assembly review on Sunday, winning 138 and 167 votes respectively.

But the KMT, DPP, New Party and People First Party caucuses yesterday all specified that they were against the proposals, and that they would not allow them to continue.

"If the Council is to be abolished or go through any major adjustments, more in-depth discussion and research needs to be done. It is inappropriate to do it now," said Alex Tsai (蔡正元), secretary-general of the KMT caucus.

The proposed amendments would still need to go through a confirmation procedure in a plenary session on Friday, to decide whether they can go through second and third readings.

Any amendments must be endorsed by at least three-quarters of the attending deputies to pass second and third readings, and two-thirds of Assembly deputies must be attendance.

In addition to the two proposals, another issue concerning the grand justices that has been raised is whether the office of a grand justice should be permanent in nature.

In what has been criticized by some Assembly deputies as a self-serving step, the Council issued a constitutional interpretation in 1996 to equalize benefits enjoyed by both grand justices and judges.

Under this ruling, the appointment of a grand justice is permanent, and cannot be revoked unless they are convicted on a criminal charge.

The KMT and DPP caucuses, believing that the term of a grand justice should be limited, said they are open to revised proposals on the subject.

"The self-serving ruling was made because the Constitution is unspecific on the terms of grand justices," said Liu I-teh (劉一德), leader of the DPP's Assembly caucus.

"The DPP caucus will not try to stop individual members from supporting the proposal [to limit the term of grand justices] as long as it is not raised in the name of the caucus," Liu said.

The KMT's Hsieh, who initiated the proposal to abolish the Council of Grand Justices, yesterday submitted an additional provision to his original proposal to limit the term of office of a grand justice.

With constitutional reform being recognized as a way to marginalize the Assembly, the marginalization proposal is the only one that has won the support of all caucuses in the Assembly: namely the KMT, DPP, New Party and even People First Party, which had previously expressed disapproval of the proposal.

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