Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Experts agree on need for overhaul of Consitution

TAIPEI SYMPOSIUM Academics and lawyers from Taiwan and abroad said the ROC's Constitution is outdated, no longer relevant and badly in need of reform

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Many participants at a recent symposium on a new constitution for Taiwan agreed on the need for constitutional reform.

The symposium sponsored by Taiwan Advocates brought together more than 20 experts on constitutional affairs from Taiwan and abroad to Taipei last weekend, including retired US federal judge Eugene Sullivan, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1986 by the late president Ronald Reagan and named a chief judge in 1990 by former president George Bush.

"Taiwan's democracy is like a house with its foundation built upon a Constitution that was passed by the National Assembly in 1947," Sullivan said.

"Now the base [of the house] is full of cracks and fissures and the best way to fix it is to renovate the foundation," he said.

Given the framing of the 1947 Constitution and the political environment in which it was drafted, John Tkacik, a Heritage Foundation research fellow, argued that "the history of the framing of the 1947 ROC [Republic of China] Constitution and its implementation -- or, more accurately, lack thereof -- in Taiwan suggests that a constitutional reform or revision is both reasonable and long overdue."

"In light of this history, it is very difficult to make the case that the 1947 Constitution was ever relevant to Taiwan, and it is even harder to argue that it is relevant now," Tkacik said.

Dieter Heckelmann, a law professor at Berlin's Freie Universitaet, stressed that since Taiwan possessed the key elements of territory, sovereignty and people, it is a country and therefore has the right to have its own Constitution.

Shiro Odamura, chairman of the Asia Pacific Association in Japan, said that it is clear that the ROC Constitution no longer fits Taiwan.

"Even so, Taiwan must confront its international issues and the opposition coming from China to Taiwan's constitutional reconstruction," Odamura said.

"In face of these issues, the Taiwanese people have no other option but to stay determined and show others their strong will," he said.

His comments were seconded by Olivier Darrason, an associate professor of law at Aix-en-Provence University in France.

Senior presidential adviser Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) told the symposium that as long as there is a consensus of three-quarters of people in Taiwan to draft a new constitution, no other countries can oppose the idea.

Citing examples from countries such as Poland and Guyana, Mindy Barry, counsel for the US House of Representative's Judiciary Committee, spoke of the historical and cultural aspects of drafting of a constitution.

"Designing a modern constitution is a multi-dimensional process that includes not just layering national goals upon legal constructs, but also obtaining consensus to negotiate by all necessary stakeholders and determining the axiological stance of the constitution," Barry said.

"Taiwan's framers can look to the experiences of other nations to find lessons that put together Taiwan's history, culture, and preferences and develop into a logical approach for designing a new Taiwanese constitution, she said.

Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), head of the Cabinet's Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, said that the drafting of a new constitution should be built upon a foundation that's novel, that's not rushed and that incorporates all issues.

Touching on the issue of Tai-wan's official name, Stephane Corcuff, visiting scholar at Harvard University's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, proposed calling Taiwan the "Chinese Republic of Taiwan."

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