Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 3 News List

No arms race, Ma says on World Freedom Day

FOCUS ON FREEDOM The president said rather than military might, the nation should compete with China on democracy and freedom, a competition that Taiwan would win

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that both sides of the Taiwan Strait must not engage in an arms race, adding that the nation’s survival depended on freedom and democracy.

An arms race was the last thing the country needs, he said.

“What we really need to do is enter into competition with them [China] on democracy and freedom,” Ma said. “And in that competition, we will prevail.”

Ma made the remarks at Taipei City’s Grand Hotel during this year’s World Freedom Day celebrations and the 53rd annual convention of the Republic of China (ROC) chapter of the World League for Freedom and Democracy.

Emphasizing the importance of compromise and negotiation, Ma said peace and prosperity in the Taiwan Strait can only be ensured if there was no war, adding that his administration would make every effort to lessen the possibility of a military conflict and to advance freedom and democracy.

Yesterday’s event attracted 40 foreign guests from 24 countries, including former Paraguayan vice president Luis Alberto Castiglioni and UN Non-governmental Organizations Department of Public Information Executive Committee Chairman Jeffery Huffines.

Ma used the occasion to once again urge the legislature — controlled by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — to approve two UN human rights declarations.

Ma said the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966, both of which were signed by the ROC, but which were never approved by the legislature.

They have been sent to the KMT-controlled legislature for approval four times since 2001, Ma said, but each attempt to have them approved had been unsuccessful.

Some analysts have suggested that Article 1 of both covenants is the reason some pan-blues do not want them ratified, as they worry it could be used as a “back door” to independence.

The article states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Ma told the audience yesterday that Taiwan has gone through many changes since 1954 when the World Freedom Day celebrations were initiated on Jan. 23.

Back then, the nation was under martial law because the Chinese civil war was not yet over, he said, adding that now the country has evolved into a democracy and the Taiwanese have democratically elected three presidents.

KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), speaking at the same event, said Taiwan was a sovereign state and that its democratic development has had an impact on the rest of Asia, the world and China’s 1.3 billion people.

Huffines said World Freedom Day honors the choice of men and women who, in a time of war, made a courageous decision of conscience to exercise one of their most sacred rights: “That of the right of life, liberty and the security of person” as expressed in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“As nations around the world choose the road to freedom and democracy, we are here today to thank our forebears for their acts of supreme courage and sacrifice, for making the right choice in favor of freedom, so that those of us living today may enjoy the full blessings of freedom in whatever country we call home,” Huffines said.

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