Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Official advises gradual constitutional reforms

SLOW BUT STEADY Reviewing the nation's options for reforming the Constitution, a Cabinet official said re-engineering in stages was preferable

CNA , TAIPEI

The nation's top official in charge of research and evaluation said yesterday that Taiwan should rethink the logic of interaction between the administration system and the legislative power hierarchy and overhaul important basic national policies while re-engineering the Constitution.

Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), chairman of the Cabinet-level Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, said that human rights protection and basic national policies on the country's economic future, as well as social and cultural development, should also be included when the nation is talking about constitutional re-engineering.

Yeh, an academic-turned-official, made the call during a speech to the regular Sun Yat-sen monthly meeting (國父紀念月會) held at the Presidential Office.

Yeh said the notion of Taiwan's constitutional re-engineering is by no means an isolated case in the world. Instead, he said, the nation's constitutional reform is an important section in the development of what he described as "global constitutionalism."

Yeh said that changes in the constitutions of various countries have been diverse but can be roughly divided into four modes -- a total rewriting of the Constitution, a large-scale revision, gradual re-engineering implemented in different stages and step-by-step rewriting.

In Taiwan's case, the third mode would be the best option, according to Yeh.

He claimed that it is "old-fashioned" to think that a country should hold a nationwide referendum only when it is writing a new constitution, Yeh said, adding that the new global trend toward constitutional reform has had many breakthroughs. For example, he said, some countries have held referendums even for simple constitutional reforms. Some countries, such as Hungary, have changed their national designation via constitutional reform, he added.

It is "pitiful" that Taiwan has ignored some aspects of the constitutional reform trend when it conducted constitutional reforms during the 1990s, aspects that include procedures, participation by the people, human rights protection and constitutional governance, Yeh argued.

He said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has planned to see the rebirth of a new constitution by 2006, paving the way for its implementation in 2008, the year his term concludes.

Yeh, who was vice president of the National Taiwan University Institute of Law before being appointed a Cabinet official, said that Taiwan's forthcoming "new constitutional movement" should at least have three "new" characteristics -- a new timeframe, a new procedure and a new arena.

Taking the "new procedure" as an example, Yeh said it should be a procedure during which moves to strengthen democracy are adopted, including large-scale public debates, civic meetings and education for the general public. The government can also set up an exclusive constitutional reform Web site to gauge public opinion.

He said Taiwan needs a constitution that is conducive to deepening democracy, fostering efficiency and consolidating its national identity.

Meanwhile, he said, the country also needs a procedure for such constitutional reform.

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