Tue, Aug 28, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Taiwan should ‘play for time,’ Larry Diamond says

Hoover Institution senior fellow Larry Diamond discussed the DPP government’s pursuit of transitional justice and its approach to cross-strait ties in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ reporter Sean Lin in Taipei, arguing for a more arbitrational approach to party assets, while warning against action that might provoke China

Hoover Institution senior fellow Larry Diamond is interviewed by the Taipei Times in Taipei on Aug. 19.

Photo: Sean Lin, Taipei Times

Taipei Times (TT): In 2016, you were quoted as saying that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government should not “punish a former administration,” as that could aggravate political rivalry. How do you differentiate between pursuing transitional justice and punishing a former administration?

Larry Diamond: Transitional justice in democratic studies is not meant to apply to the transition from one democratically elected presidential administration to another. It is meant to apply to the transition from an authoritarian system of government to a democratic system of government.

There is [a lot of] literature on transitional justice in those circumstances, whose emphasis is on an agonizing effort, which can never be perfectly achieved, to reconcile two imperatives.

One is a moral imperative toward the “justice” part of transitional justice, which is to right historical wrongs, to acknowledge and document historical wrongs, and to punish severe abuses, particularly by individuals who committed human rights atrocities.

The second imperative is the “transitional” aspect: to ensure successful transitions into a successful democracy.

So the more the pursuit of transitional justice becomes a kind of politics of revenge, the more it can risk destabilizing democracy and propelling the political culture on a path of polarization.

You always need to balance these two imperatives to create an inclusive political community in which political parties that are associated with the old order and parties of the new order can compete in a mutually respectful way.

I think transitional justice — as it is surfacing now on the Taiwanese political agenda — refers to two issues: the law regarding the so-called “ill-gotten assets” of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the prosecution of [former president] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

I understand the desire for clean-leveling on the part of DPP activists and others, for eliminating all the financial assets and advantages of the KMT.

I would urge a slightly more accommodative process than what is now under way.

The KMT management got some initially lucrative assets for the party by virtue of their authoritarian command of the state and the economy, but over time, as the private sector grew them through effective business management, then what share of that wealth belongs to the KMT still and what share of it should belong to the Taiwanese society?

My strong preference as a political scientist would be to have this managed and proceed in a more arbitrational way, with some kind of mediation by a set of respected legal personalities that would try to broker a compromised settlement on the issue of the party assets.

I have said that the prosecution of Ma and the charges that have been leveled against him are, to my awareness of the situation, a very dangerous thing for democracy, because it appears that he is being prosecuted for a number of violations that merely involved technicalities and fairly arcane legal issues.

If you prosecute a former president on a legal technicality in a way that makes it look like the now-dominant party in the country and its most passionate supporters are seeking political revenge or seeking to create a moral, legal and political context in which they can use the prosecution and conviction of the most recent KMT president to bargain for the negation of the much more serious ... crimes by the previous DPP president, then it looks to outside observers like politics of revenge, or a heavy-handed and cynical manipulation of the judicial process for political purposes, even if the technical details could be portrayed or massaged in such a way as to make a case for technical violation of the law.

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