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Wed, Apr 26, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Deputies `atone' for past mistakes

SIDELINED With the Constitutional amendment that severely reduces the Assembly's powers, most feel that justice has been done and the change is for the better

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung, right, drinks a toast in a dinner with Liu I-teh, left, leader of the DPP's Assembly caucus, to thank DPP Assembly deputies' efforts to marginalize the National Assembly.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

National Assembly deputies, criticized as being "self-serving" for adopting an amendment to extend their own terms of office last year, made amends by passing another reform package that marginalized the Assembly on Monday.

"This [positive image] is the only thing we've got from this reform. We can at least face the public, by showing them that we've achieved goals [complying with public expectations]," said Chen Chin-te (陳金德), director-general of the DPP's Assembly caucus.

Chen and caucus chief executive Liu I-teh (劉一德), who were ringleaders with the KMT in extending the term of incumbent deputies by two years in 1999, became the main target of attack immediately after the resolution was passed.

Although Chen and Liu argued that the extension was a necessary evil -- in exchange for support from the deputies for a plan to freeze the Assembly and attain the DPP's goal for reform -- public criticism was so fierce that Chen's colleagues launched a recall bid against him. The campaign, however, was unsuccessful.

Under public pressure, the KMT also revoked the membership of then-speaker Su Nan-cheng (蘇南成), who also played a key role in the extension amendment.

The minority New Party -- which had refused to endorse the amendment -- filed an application with the Council of Grand Justices for a constitutional interpretation soon after it was adopted.

The Grand Justices issued their ruling invalidating the extension amendment, along with the one to freeze the Assembly in March.

With just two months left before the expiration of the deputies' term, Chen and Liu met with the KMT caucus again and agreed to new measures calculated to make up for their failure.

The marginalization plan -- which was intended to turn the Assembly into a non-standing body starting May 20 -- was hammered out in just one round of talks.

The revised plan won the support of the New Party. "This reform is like atoning for a big mistake," agreed Wang Kao-cheng (王高成), spokesman for the New Party caucus at the Assembly.

Wang said the plan was important to Taiwan's constitutional development because it moved most of the Assembly's powers to the Legislative Yuan -- ? resolving the long-term problem deriving from the existence of two executive bodies.

Wang said that previously the National Assembly was required to convene at least once a year and could also propose extraordinary sessions.

This was despite the fact, he said, that the Assembly's main functions were to amend the Constitution and confirm the president's appointment of Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan and Examination Yuan members.

"The need to do these jobs doesn't emerge very often. But Assembly deputies would always come up with some excuse to lengthen the session so that they could get paid for the meeting," Wang said.

Wang said marginalizing the Assembly would save taxpayers' money.

Also, under the reform, the threshold for amending the Constitution has been raised.

To amend the Constitution now a vote will need to be passed in the legislature with at least a three quarters majority, then submitted to the Assembly for a final confirmation, which also needs 75 percent support.

"This can prevent politicians from adopting any self-serving measures," Wang said.

Chen said he was glad of the opportunity to promote the reform, which he claimed was a major step forward in Taiwan's political system.

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