Wed, Apr 16, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Academics urge review of Constitution to fix Taiwan

THORNY ISSUE:The academics said interpretations of the Constitution, which Annette Lu likened to outdated ‘grandmother’s pajamas,’ will help solve pressing national issues

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology director Michael Hsiao, third left, speaks at a forum on legislative reform organized by Citizen’s Congress Watch yesterday. From left to right are lawyer Lai Chung-chiang, Alliance of Awakened Citizens spokesman Wang Hsi, Hsiao, Citizen’s Congress Watch chairman Shih Shin-min, standing board member Ku Chung-hwa, Soochow University Department of Political Science head Hawang Shiow-duan and National Taipei University professor Chen Yao-hsiang.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Following the conclusion of the Sunflower movement, interpretations of the Constitution are required if Taiwan is to resolve a wide range of thorny, imperative issues regarding its constitutional and political system, as well as the nature of cross-strait relations, academics said yesterday.

While the three-week student-led movement was ignited by protesters’ dissatisfaction with the nation’s representative democracy, several professors said the follow-up “rebuilding process” would be more of a constitutional than legislative reform drive, which was the topic of a forum organized by Citizen’s Congress Watch where they made their remarks.

“My faith in the government never wavered during Taiwan’s democratic movement in the 1980s, the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996 and the turbulent eight-year period of the Democratic Progressive Party administration because I knew the government would always be there to safeguard the public and the country,” said Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology.

“However, that is not the case now as I don’t know whose side the government is on and I’m afraid that the country could be gone tomorrow,” he said.

Hsiao said the Sunflower movement had clearly pointed out the key flaws in today’s government — the dominance of the administrative branch and lawmakers’ obedience to their party’s position rather than the mainstream public opinion — and both problems can be dealt with by demanding constitutional interpretations.

To seek an interpretation of the Constitution by the Council of Grand Justices, a petition signed by more than one-third of the 113-member Legislative Yuan is required.

Given that the principle of separation of powers is ambiguously defined under the nation’s semi-presidentialist system, Soochow University political science professor Hawang Shiow-duan (黃秀端) said that even the role and function of the Legislative Yuan requires a constitutional interpretation so that the grand justices can empower the legislature and prevent it from being the executive’s rubber stamp.

The Sunflower movement and other recent political crises have shown that Taiwan’s biggest problem is more than its lacking a smoothly functioning legislature, revealing three outstanding issues that people should pay attention to, National Taipei University professor Chen Yao-hsiang (陳耀祥) said.

The three issues are: constitutional reform, the implementation of transitional justice and the reassessment and review of cross-strait relations from a constitutional perspective, he said.

In particular, regarding Taiwan-China ties, it appears that mainstream public opinion in Taiwan now demands a clearer definition of bilateral relations as cross-strait engagement continues to increase and deepen, leading most people to deem the current design of relations within the Constitution as no longer applicable, Chen said.

That means the grand justices may have to handle highly sensitive political issues if the opposition parties demand constitutional interpretations, he said.

Moreover, he added that the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) ill-gotten assets and the issue of whether a president should serve concurrently as a party chairman — which is partly why heads of state have consistently interfered with the legislature’s independence in the past — could also be interpreted by the Justices of the Constitutional Court.

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