Mon, Jun 21, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Constitution reform to get push

CONCERTED EFFORT A number of groups held a press conference to announce that they'll be pushing hard for a revision to the charter document

By Evelyn Shih  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Student representative Tsai Re-tan, right, presents a token copy of Taiwan's Constitution to Presidential Adviser Koo Kuan-min, center, and other officials at an event held yesterday to boost revision of the Constitution.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-TE, TAIPEI TIMES

The Northern Taiwan Society (台灣北社) yesterday held a press conference to urge the public to support rewriting the Constitution by 2006. "The existing Constitution does not match up with reality," said Senior Presidential Advisor Koo Kuan-min (辜寬敏).

"The 23 million people of Taiwan must ratify the Constitution for it to have any sort of meaning."

"In my estimation, 80 to 90 percent of the population agrees with implementing major Constitutional reforms," Koo said.

"The problem arises when we discuss changing the name of the country. My suggestion is to hold a two-stage referendum. The first referendum would deal strictly with a new constitution. After that is accomplished, we can hold a second referendum on the question of the country's name.

"Consensus is most important," he said, citing the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally as an example of Taiwanese unity.

"Rewriting the Constitution is not equal to Taiwan's independence," said Chen I-Shen (陳儀深), the society's deputy chairman and a research fellow at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.

"Even China has altered its Constitution. And because [Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman (KMT)] Lien [Chan] advocated rewriting the Constitution during this year's presidential election, I believe we have a consensus across party lines.

"We must see past pan-blue and pan-green divisions to discuss the content of the reform, because that is the more important question," he said.

"But the question of our national name cannot be ignored," Chen said. The `Republic of China' cannot reach out into the international community. For instance, if we succeed in changing the Constitution, would we claim to have changed the Chinese Constitution?

"By keeping the name `Republic of China,' we make ourselves illegitimate," he said. "We must deal as soon as possible with the issue of our `illegality.'

"Independent commentator Yang Hsien-Hong (楊憲宏) called Constitutional reform a right and a duty of each Taiwanese citizen.

"The tracks of history have been laid," he said. "When [former president] Lee Tung-hui became the first elected president in 1996, he was more legitimate than the Constitution, as was our newly elected legislature, because the current constitution hasn't been voted on.

"In truth, we already enjoy a modified, more democratic form of government than before," Yang said, "but there is no document to make it legitimate. We've paid in advance with our credit cards, but we owe it to future generations to pay the bill and give life to a new Constitution."

Yang urged all citizens to stand up to pressure from the US and China and push for a 2006 Constitutional referendum. "At this point in time, silence is a crime. Recall the Europeans during World War II who remained silent as their Jewish countrymen and neighbors were taken by the Nazis. Will we also wait until it is too late, until we ourselves are arrested?

"We can only win if we make noise," he said.

Koo expressed disappointment with President Chen Shui-bian for putting the brakes on the Constitutional reform movement, which he promised to push during the presidential election.

"The US warned us to slow down because they were afraid we were rushing the process," Koo said, "but they never told us to go backwards."

To promote the ratification of a new constitution by 2006, the North Taiwan Society will initiate what it calls a "Popular Constitutional Rewriting Movement" on June 26 on the third anniversary of its founding. At a fundraiser that evening, the group will announce an manifesto for the effort and establish a nationwide "Constitutional Rewriting Seed Army" (制憲種子部隊).

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