Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 4 News List

New constitution under discussion

CHANGES Speakers at a one-day seminar on reforming Taiwan's Constitution agreed that public participation and grassroots debate should receive more attention

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The second wave of Taiwan's constitutional reform should follow an "appropriate procedure" and let the public enjoy the opportunity to debate and deliberate over the context of the new constitution, Chang Wen-chen (張文貞), a law professor at National Taiwan University, said yesterday.

"Over the past five decades, the Constitution became a political tool. Constitutional reforms were dominated by one party and the context of the past six constitutional amendments was made via partisan negotiations. It may solve some of the problems, but it inevitably causes more in the long run," he said.

Regardless of whether the new constitution proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is an amended one or brand new, Chang said that public participation and grassroots debates should be strengthened this time around.

"Experience and studies have taught us that only through public discussion and deliberation can we genuinely transform inhabitants living under constitutional order into citizens,'" she said.

Chang made the remarks yesterday during the morning session of a one-day seminar to discuss constitutional reforms. The event was co-organized by the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission and the Public Law Research Institute of the National Taiwan University's College of Law.

The main theme of the session was constitutional reforms, national identification and constitutional procedure. The theme of the first afternoon session was constitutional context focusing on the governmental system and the second afternoon session dealt with constitutional context focusing on human rights.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a roomful of some 200 law students, academics and civil servants that the new constitution proposed by Chen cannot and will not be decided by one single party or individual.

"As the president has assigned me to take charge of the preparatory work for the constitutional reform, I've attended various seminars and panel discussions in northern, southern, central and eastern Taiwan," he said. "I'll organize the opinions solicited as well as those gathered today and present them to the proposed constitutional reform committee. The committee will then call a constitutional convention to decide the context of a new-constitution meeting in terms of the requirements set down by the president and responding to the aspirations of the public."

Head of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), who chaired the morning session, said that constitutional reforms should not be used by political parties as a political gambit or maneuver for partisan gains.

Echoing this, Chang said that the first wave of the nation's constitutional reforms conducted during the KMT era lacked "appropriate procedure," prompting the Council of Grand Justices to rule that the lawmaking body should not amend the Constitution during provisional legislative sessions.

Another ruling further requests that government agencies responsible for constitutional amendments follow an "appropriate procedure" and clearly specifies that the process of constitutional amendment should be open, transparent and have rational debates and negotiations.

The Grand Justices, however, failed to distinctively explain the definition of "appropriate procedure." Chang outlined this as preparation, motion filing, discussion and decision.

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