Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Closed-door process bad for reforms

PUBLIC DOCUMENTThe pro-independence group said it was important to keep the constitutional reform process free from politicking where possible

By Evelyn Shih  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Members of the Taipei Society (澄社) yesterday blasted the constitutional reform process as being more about party politics than improving democracy.

They called on the public to reclaim the Constitution as a document that belongs to every citizen.

"The new constitution should be a citizen's constitution that is concerned with their rights," said Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), a Taipei Society member and National Chengchi University professor.

The group held a press conference yesterday to promote their new book, The Constitutional Reform Controversy: Lessons from the 1997 Reforms.

"This is an auspicious time for our publication, with the current controversy over the 2006 constitutional reforms," Taipei Society chairman Hong Yu-hung (洪裕宏).

"Whether we call it constitutional reform or renewal, this time the process must involve all citizens in a debate, and it must educate all citizens about their Constitution," Ku said.

Taipei Society secretary Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that a public education campaign would be a primary goal for the Taipei Society between now and 2006.

"The society will continue commenting on politics from a non-political standpoint," he said. "But our more important mission is to get the public involved."

"A national referendum on the subject should involve more people in open debate and solve some of our more enduring problems," Hsu added.

Ku and Contemporary Monthly magazine editor-in-chief Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) co-edited the book, which is a compilation of essays.

"The 1997 reforms have proven extremely problematic since they were brought in," Chin said. "We document suggestions and analyses from civic organizations at the time, many of which were not heeded but proved correct in time."

"This sort of `closed door' reform process must not occur again," Ku said of the 1997 reforms, which were largely shielded from the public. "We hope that politicians will no longer monopolize the process and initiate reforms to further their own selfish ends. The people must be able to watch every step of the process."

Ku said that in 1997 there was still a residue of fear among people because of the violence and persecution of the past. But today, he said, freedom of speech was much more extensive.

The society is organizing a conference on constitutional reform in collaboration with several other civic organizations to get citizens involved in the process, he said.

Members of the Taiwan Law Society were also on hand to show their support for the drive.

"We're putting together a draft of a new constitution with the assistance of non-governmental organizations," society member Chen Tzu-yang (陳慈陽) said.

Hung said the new document should enjoy a consensus and res-pect the voice of the people. It should not be decided upon by a minority, he said.

Society members also pointed to the role of international pressure on the reform process.

"Taiwan is facing a similar international situation this time around," Ku said. "But the difference is, the sense of Taiwan as a sovereign entity has become even stronger and more widely expressed."

Ku added that two powers were battling one another in Taiwan: the increasing international pressure against displays of sovereignty and the rising public awareness of a sovereign identity.

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