President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday floated the idea of establishing a human rights advisory committee accountable to the Presidential Office, reversing a legislative resolution in 2006 that abolished a similar unit that had been formed during Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) presidency.
The Presidential Office said in a statement that Ma, who chaired a meeting on human rights yesterday morning, proposed the possibility of establishing an ad hoc human rights advisory committee in accordance with the Organic Standard Act of Central Government Agencies (中央行政機關組織基準法), taking into account “the Republic of China’s constitutional system and the condition of the country as well as the division of powers and operations of other countries’ national agencies for human rights protection.”
According to the statement, Ma said the proposal to set up a national institution charged with the specific responsibility of human rights “was worth adopting.”
The statement sought to allay possible concern that the Presidential Office’s proposed committee might encroach upon the authority of the Executive Yuan’s human rights protection task force and the Control Yuan’s human rights protection committee.
It said there would be no risk of encroachment if the Presidential Office committee remained a consultative body rather than being empowered to investigate.
Ma said the committee’s functions should include the following: offering consultation services, integrating and coordinating human rights affairs of all agencies and groups, studying international systems and regulations concerning human rights and presenting national human rights reports.
If Ma gets his wish, it would run counter to a resolution the legislature reached in January 2006, when the Legislative Yuan passed a resolution requesting that six non-institutional bodies set up under the Presidential Office be dissolved.
They were the Human Rights Advisory Committee, the Science and Technology Advisory Committee, the preparatory group for the national human rights memorial museum, the Gender Mainstreaming Advisory Panel, the Constitutional Re-engineering Office and the Youth Corps.
Chen said in May 2006 that two of the non-institutional bodies, the Human Rights Advisory Committee and the Science and Technology Advisory Committee, would stop functioning to show the Presidential Office’s respect for the legislature, as well as its sincerity in maintaining a harmonious relationship with opposition parties.
Hu Wen-dong (胡文棟), section chief of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, said the 2006 resolution still stands.
He said the establishment of an ad hoc committee does not require the enactment or amendment of an organizational law because the committee would obtain its budget and personnel from the agency above it.
However, standing committees required a legal basis for their founding, he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said Ma should focus on taking concrete action to eradicate human rights violations rather than oppressing dissidents while claiming to respect human rights.
“It is ridiculous,” he said. “When the DPP was in power, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was strongly against the establishment of a human rights committee under the Presidential Office. Now that the KMT is in power, it is promoting the same thing it opposed. It’s like an ugly woman trying to imitate a beautiful woman knitting her brows.”
Lee said Ma’s suggestion proved that he was desperate to salvage his plummeting popularity and divert public attention from his weakening leadership.
DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠), a member of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, said the Ma administration should honor the legislature’s 2006 resolution or else risk undermining its own credibility.
“The KMT administration is confusing people because it says one thing when it is in opposition and another when it is in power,” she said.
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