The ROC (Taiwan)-US Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association (RIAA) has recently become a subject of dispute between lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and opposition parties following the establishment of a rival grouping and an allegedly closed vote for the RIAA’s chair.
RIAA is a multiparty organization established in 1988 that aims to boost parliamentary exchanges between Taiwan and the US, an association once led by DPP legislators during the former DPP administration before KMT legislators took it over after the KMT became the ruling party in 2008.
The latest dispute between the KMT and opposition parties came after Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) set up an association called the “Taiwan-US Legislators Amity Association” on Wednesday, sparking discontent from KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who doubles as chairman of the RIAA.
Lin blasted the founding of another parliamentary diplomacy group to the US as an “international embarrassment,” saying the RIAA has long served as the sole counterpart of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus (CTC), which was established by 85 US House of Representative members in 2002 in support of Taiwan issues, adding that the formation of another amity association would pose reception difficulties for the CTC.
“Newly elected legislators lack congressional ethics, as they only aim to lead an association, while refusing to take lessons first,” Lin said, adding that the KMT legislators did not form a rival association when DPP lawmakers headed the RIAA.
However, Huang said that parliamentary diplomacy should be diversified, as some ruling parties may find it inconvenient to highlight certain issues or express public opinions, and that these tasks should therefore be handled by pro-localization or opposition associations to avoid the perception that Taiwan is pro-China.
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that when former DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) served as RIAA chairman, there was another rival association established by the then-opposition parties, adding that the KMT has also “acted on its own initiatives.”
“It is a good thing for Taiwan’s parliamentary diplomacy to be diversified rather than being monopolized by a specific political party, as Washington may only hear one side of voices within the country,” Hsiao said.
Meanwhile, DPP lawmakers lodged complaints that a recent election for the RIAA chairman was dominated by the KMT.
The RIAA held an election for its chair last month, in which KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) was succeeded by Lin, while many DPP legislators were left in the dark about the election, according to sources within the pan-green camp.
Only after the election did Lin invite DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) to serve in the post of vice chairman of the RIAA, adding that Chen reluctantly accepted the offer after long deliberation, the sources said.
Responding to questions on whether the RIAA had notified members about the election, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said he “did not seem to receive any notification” and was unaware of such a vote, while Hsiao said she could not recall receiving such a notification and that she had to check with her office.
In response to the allegations, Lin said the RIAA had notified every member about the election, both by faxes and text messages.