Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday rejected criticism that he had not defended President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) amid the recent corruption allegations against him.
"Some have criticized me for not defending the pan-green camp or the president," Lee said. "I'm not a supporter of the pan-green [camp]. I am a supporter of Taiwan."
Lee said that he and Chen were two different people and that he supported the system, not individuals.
He made the remarks yesterday afternoon in an address to graduates of a short-term training program at the Lee Teng-hui Academy that focused on leadership and the nation's democratization process during his presidency.
He said that Taiwan has been an independent nation since May 1, 1991, when he abolished the Temporary Provisions Effective during the "Period of National Mobilization for the Suppression of the Communist Rebellion" (動員勘亂時期臨時條款).
Following the direct legislative election in 1991 and first direct presidential election in 1996, military authoritarianism was transformed into a democracy, Lee said.
The road to democracy, however, has been long and bumpy, he said, stressing that it was important to make good use of the power of the people to push for democratic reform.
"The power of national leaders comes from the people. I remember whenever there were protests or marches, I invited demonstration leaders over for a talk and listened to their grievances. If there was anything I could do to make things better, I did it," he said.
Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power in 2000, Lee said that there were many things that could have been done but were not.
The 85-year-old Lee said he did not know if he would live long enough to see the country become a "normal country."
To become a normal country, Lee said, the national title needed to be rectified, a new constitution needed to be enacted, Taiwan-centered consciousness needed to be established, a Taiwan-centered educational system needed to be developed and future national leaders needed to be trained.
There were several factors that had contributed to the present political situation, Lee said, including the inexperience of the DPP administration and its inconsistency in setting policies.
Lee said he had suggested to American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young that those who wish to be national leaders should be sent to the US to see how a democracy operates.
He also said that some opposition parties have teamed up with China to sabotage Taiwan's democratization process, and Beijing has changed its strategy by offering carrots instead of sticks.
Lee said that a good leader must have a sound moral character and love his or her country and its people.