Mon, Oct 30, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Koo seeks to sidestep constitutional mire

NEW APPROACH The former presidential adviser thinks he has found a way to avoid the potential partisan pitfalls that accompany any constitutional debates in Taiwan

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) is a longtime proponent of establishing a Taiwan republic. He has advocated changing the name of the country, and unlike those who seek to merely amend the Constitution, he wants a new one.

Since July, however, Koo has changed his tune, pushing for what he called a "Second Republic" constitution -- while leaving the details of this open to interpretation.

Koo's proposal even received a response from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) who said future constitutional reform could take the form of a "Second Republic."

Chen's comment drew a great deal of attention as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in the process of drafting a new set of constitutional reform proposals.

The party hopes to finalize it by next month.

However, Koo proposed that the Constitution should be "frozen" and a "Second Republic" constitution enacted. By using such vague terms, he clearly hopes to sidestep the divisive issue of national identity, as well as avoid touching on the internationally explosive issue of sovereignty. But even this hazy wording has drawn critics.

Some people have expressed concern that what Koo is proposing would create a constitutional vacuum after the Constitution is frozen and before the "Second Republic" constitution is ordained.

Koo told the Taipei Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that such a scenario could not happen, because what he wants is for the Constitution to be "frozen" once the "Second Republic" constitution is established.

"The Constitution provides the legal foundation for the country and is the supreme law of the nation. It cannot be `frozen' until a new one is instituted," he said.

By relying on the phrase "Second Republic" constitution, Koo has avoided addressing the most contentious aspect of creating a new constitution -- would the new document be the "Constitution of the Republic of China," as the current Constitution is styled, or would it be called something else?

He said that as long as a new constitution conforms to the due process of reform and is approved by the people of Taiwan, he will accept it.

Considering the high legislative threshold required to enact constitutional reforms, Koo said that whether a "Second Republic" constitution would pass is a fundamental problem for the country, not just Chen.

Constitutional freeze

"Freezing" the Constitution, Koo said, means not amending the Constitution nor enacting a brand new one, but rather striking a balance between the two.

As a "Second Republic" constitution would stay clear of such sensitive issues as "sovereignty" and touch instead on "jurisdiction," Koo said that he thought it might stand a better chance of passing through the legislature and eventually winning public support.

Besides, there is no reason for the US government to oppose to "freezing" the Constitution, because doing so would not violate the "four noes" pledge Chen made in his inauguration addresses in 2000 and 2004.

Koo said he was inspired by the "freezing" of the National Unification Council (NUC) and Unification Guidelines earlier this year. While Chen proposed abolishing the council and guidelines, the US government proposed using more neutral wording: to "freeze." Both sides eventually agreed on "ceasing the function" of the council and "ceasing the application" of the guidelines.

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