Amid verbal clashes, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-controlled legislative committee yesterday steamrollered legal revisions to a law that empowers the legislative speaker and committee conveners to settle disputes by calling in police.
Cross-party negotiations must be held before the legal revision proceeds to the legislative session for further deliberation.
Cashing in on its numerical advantage, the five-member Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday voted three to one in favor of an amended version endorsed by six KMT legislators, including Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), who chaired the meeting.
The vote was proposed by KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰), after he traded insults with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator William Lai (賴清德), with each calling the other “wicked.”
KMT and DPP members held a heated debate over the necessity of amending the Legislators’ Conduct Act (立法委員行為法) during the three-hour meeting.
KMT Legislator Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) said that it was the norm in democracies for the legislative speaker or committee chairperson to maintain order in the legislature with the help of the security forces.
Pan said that the amendment was proposed because the DPP had adopted dramatic measures, even resorting to violence, to boycott amendments to the Organic Law of the National Communications Commission (國家通訊傳播委員會組織法) last year.
KMT Legislator Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) said that rational debate about controversial issues was the fundamental spirit of democratic politics and the minority should yield to the majority.
“But the DPP is not a democratic or a progressive party,” Chu said. “They are against bills that run counter to their interests and use dramatic measures to boycott them. We cannot simply sit idly by.”
Whether the legislative speaker or committee convener calls in police to maintain order is one thing, she said, but they must be furnished with such power.
Hsieh said the new legislature seems to be less boisterous, but it is not because the DPP does not want to fight, but because it has less people to fight with.
In the 113-member legislature, the KMT holds 81 seats, while the DPP holds just 27.
Lai, however, expressed opposition to the amendment, lamenting the regression of democracy six months into President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) term.
“Are we becoming like China, which is authoritarian and rules by martial law?” he asked.
Lai said he was against the revisions because legislators must be held responsible for their own words and actions and if they were not, they would pay the price in the next election.
“The KMT already has a majority in the legislature; what else do you want?” Lai said. “When you leave no room for the opposition, protest is the only way to get our voices heard.”
Lai criticized the KMT for amending the law to fulfill its own needs and that he would like to see the committee postpone the debate. Lai said he did not think police would want to get involved in conflicts at the legislature.
DPP Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) agreed, saying that he doubted how effective police would be when confrontation occurred.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that the DPP only boycotted bills that were unconstitutional or against the national interest and that the KMT already had an enormous amount of power to direct the legislative agenda.