Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday said that many of the social disorders that followed the SARS outbreak in Taiwan were a result of Taiwanese citizens' lack of respect for law and order, as well as democratic indiscipline.
"What concerns me is that the biggest challenge Taiwan faces is not the economic issue, but rather whether or not the general public could improve their democratic temperament and obedience to law and order," Lee said.
Lee, founder of the Lee Teng-hui School, made an opening speech to the first assembly of the school's national-policy class. The line-up of the 36-strong class comprises of academics, government officials and members of private organizations, and they are devout followers of Lee's ideals for Taiwanese independence. Among them are two overseas Taiwanese from Thailand and the US, who will fly to the country every two weeks to complete the four-month course.
Lee said that during the past 10 years, the country experienced a peaceful "silent revolution" in which a democratization process was introduced to the people and the decades-long authoritarian rule by the KMT came to an end.
However, he said, the revolution was not yet complete as the public's democratic spirit is insufficient and political disparities still loom large.
"During my long tenure as KMT chairman, I've tried to push the spiritual, educational and judicial reforms that embody the silent revolution, but I finally realized that I couldn't accomplish this goal within the KMT.
He compared the KMT to a self-binding party which seeks no improvement but constantly attempts to return to its authoritarian past -- a state that the party feels most comfortable with.
"The social disorders we've seen and the frequent political clashes -- even the latest social chaos amid the SARS outbreak -- are vivid examples of the lack of democratic discipline of the Taiwanese people," Lee said.
To turn such a stalemate around, Lee said it was necessary to strengthen the public's awareness of Taiwan-centered values in seeking a democratic and independent nation.
Adapting to the current educational material in subjects like history, language and geography is imperative for reinforcing the public's understanding of these values, Lee said.
"Taiwanese history and geography contents in our textbooks are extremely scarce, as most of the materials are about China. It is a sad fact that Taiwan is not an independent country, and the name of the country is still the Republic of China," Lee said.