Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 3 News List

`Threats never bring reconciliation'

Lord John Alderdice, deputy president of Liberal International, a world federation of liberal political parties, visited Taiwan last week to participate in the Liberal International Asian Conference that was held in Kaohsiung. Alderdice also serves as the speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Alderdice talked to `Taipei Times' staff reporter Chang Yun-ping about the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) current presidential campaign. The DPP joined the federation in 2001 and President Chen Shui-bian was awarded its international freedom prize in the same year.

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Lord John Alderdice, deputy president of Liberal International and speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. He has been actively involved in the Northern Ireland peace process and was one of the key negotiators of the Belfast Agreement signed on Good Friday in 1998.

PHOTO: YUN-PING CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: You were here four years ago to witness President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) first presidential campaign. What do you think of his second campaign and its meaning for Taiwan's democratization?

John Alderdice: The previous election was an extraordinary event, not just for Taiwan, but it was also very important for Chinese communities worldwide. What President Chen did by winning a democratic election was to demonstrate that democracy is not something alien to the Chinese people. On the contrary, when the Chinese people have the opportunity to elect a government democratically, they do so with enthusiasm.

President Chen's election will represent the best hope and future for the people of Taiwan. In the four years since he was elected, Chen has been successful in bringing Taiwan and the views of Taiwanese people onto the international stage. This has not been easy, because it's no great secret that Beijing does not assist the people of Taiwan to present their views of Taiwan internationally.

In a very gracious and courteous way Chen has helped to point out that Taiwan has led the way in democracy for the people of China. It's been appreciated. In Europe there has been a greater understanding of the issues from a Taiwanese point of view. I think the way President Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) have conveyed the situation has raised awareness of it throughout the world.

TT: Chen's opponents criticized him for performing badly in the past four years and now demand a change of power, but the president insisted that four years are not enough to allow him to bring about the necessary reforms. What do you think of this?

Alderdice: I think for most governments in democratic countries, four years is a relatively short time to achieve major changes. That was one of the comments, for example, that [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair was making when the election came up for him some time ago -- that he had started after many years of Conservative government. But he needed a second mandate.

The United States constitution also recognizes that the president may serve, if they are elected, a second mandate but not more -- which I think recognizes that four years is really not enough for someone to achieve what they want to achieve.

TT: China is still posing a military threat to Taiwan. Chen has taken a strong stance on Taiwan's sovereignty, but his rival, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), asserted that the controversial sovereignty issue should be put aside to resolve the stalemate in cross-strait dialogue. What's your view on this?

Alderdice: My experience [in the Northern Ireland peace talks] was that as long as people were trying to force others to accept their position, there could be no reconciliation for peace. For some centuries, Britain tried to force its will on the island of Ireland. But that was not successful. We had the IRA terror war for 30 years, and that didn't work either.

In the end, everyone has to recognize that the principle of consent is critical to the resolution of any problem. Whatever outcome is achieved, people have to have a say over their own sovereignty. With sovereignty I mean the sovereignty of a country. It's not the sovereignty of a party, not the sovereignty of a piece of ground. It's the sovereignty of the people.

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