Sun, Aug 25, 2013 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Neil Peng urges public to recall ‘bad’ lawmakers

Fed up with what it says is the arbitrary policymaking of President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration — as seen in its demolition of private residences, building of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and autocratic handling of the cross-strait service trade pact — civic group Constitution 133 Alliance has launched a recall campaign against lawmakers it says have forsaken their duty to be the voice of the people. In an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen, screenwriter and author Neil Peng, one of the founders of the newly formed alliance, called on the public to square up to incompetent lawmakers and stop them from “bullying” Taiwanese by subjecting them to recall bids

Neil Peng gestures during an interview with the Liberty Times on Aug. 15.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): What prompted you to step forward to found the Constitution 133 Alliance and promote the recall campaign?

Neil Peng (馮光遠): I thought about doing this when the controversy over the government-sponsored rock musical Dreamers (夢想家) emerged in 2011. The root cause of the controversy is undoubtedly President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), because no government official would ever dare to squander NT$230 million (US$7.67 million) of taxpayers’ money on a musical performance if not expressly commanded to do so by the president.

That exorbitant sum — approximately equal to the annual incomes of 100 performing arts groups — was spent in just two nights. This was so preposterous that howls of rage could be heard all over the country. As artistic performers ourselves, we [the alliance] are particularly aware of the adverse impact that this case could have on the performing arts industry.

One of the more recent events that inspired the alliance was the signing of the cross-strait service trade agreement. People started to realize the possible threats the pact could pose to the nation after publisher Rex How (郝明義) took exception to the treaty [How has since resigned from his post as a national policy adviser.]

National Taiwan University economics department chairwoman Jang Show-ling’s (鄭秀玲) penetrating analysis of the pact also revealed the alarming fact that the agreement could be the spark that starts a prairie fire.

LT: Why has the alliance chosen to initiate a recall campaign against incompetent legislators as the way to right the perceived wrongs in politics and society?

Peng: Ma has set the nation on fire on numerous occasions and we, the people, are always the ones left to put out the flames. Since there is no way our firefighting efforts could ever outpace the government’s rate of sparking blazes, we asked ourselves: “Why not just get rid of the arsonists?”

Taiwanese voters are accustomed to the idea of having an election every four years and are always overly excited and enthusiastic during election season. However, they often feel powerless after realizing that they may have elected the wrong person, although it is their constitutional right to recall inept officials.

We must awaken Taiwanese to the realization that this right is an essential supplement to the democratic electoral system and this is what the recall campaign is aiming to accomplish. The alliance hopes to depose lawmakers that only defend and answer to Ma, because such legislators are not the representatives of the people, they are rubber stamps for the president.

People who think they can stay away from politics and mind their own business are often the ones who end up suffering the most. They may not be thinking about politics, but politics affects them regardless. As recent events have taught us, we must come forward when the nation needs us to — there is no such thing as keeping out of politics.

I criticize politicians a lot, but critical words will not change anything because they can always turn a deaf ear to what I am saying. That is why we must put our words into actions that can put officials under real pressure, and nothing stresses a lawmaker more than the thought of being recalled.

I believe that there are many Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members who resent and despise Ma, but are too afraid that they will become the victims of the KMT’s dirty tactics to speak up. However, by launching the recall campaign we will be able to subject these lawmakers to the pressure of public opinion.

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