Legal professionals and members of the Judicial Reform Foundation yesterday welcomed President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) call for a national congress on judicial issues, but urged the new administration to keep the congress open to participation by all sectors of society.
“There is an urgent need for the proposed congress because Taiwan has changed, and there are now very different political and social forces at work from the last time a national congress on judicial issues was held in 1999,” foundation executive director Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) said.
In her inaugural speech on Friday, Tsai said her administration would vigorously promote judicial reform.
“The general sentiment is that the judiciary system is not close to the public, nor trusted by it. It is unable to fight crime effectively and has lost its function as the last line of defense for justice,” she said, adding that to address the problem, her government would hold a national congress on judicial issues in October with the participation of the public.
Kao reminded Tsai and the Democratic Progressive Party administration not to retread the same ground and not to repeat the same mistakes as in 1999.
“The 1999 national congress was a failure. Most of the recommendations were not implemented and there were no real results or reforms of the judiciary,” he said.
Kao said that hundreds of experts, government officials and delegates from various fields gathered for deliberation during the three-day event in July 1999, which produced more than 1,800 pages of recorded meeting minutes and, after heated discussions, resulted in 32 resolutions.
“However, due to the conflicting viewpoints of the participants, most of the resolutions were not carried out. Many people voiced their criticism and decried the lack of resulting judicial reforms, which doomed it to be perceived as a failure,” Kao said.
He said the problem was that then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) did not get directly involved in the process.
“The other main reason for the shortcomings was the absence of widespread participation by citizens across society. Most of the participants were prosecutors, judges, lawyers and other officials and functionaries in the judiciary, along with academic experts and other delegates. There was a lack of real representation from citizens’ groups and other sectors of society,” Kao said.
He said that the three-day congress was also poorly prepared and organized and pushed through its agenda too quickly.
“For observers, it seemed like a grand party full of fireworks and pizzazz, but it achieved very little,” Kao said.
Kao recommended a communications platform with online access and engagement by the general public, and not just officials in the judiciary and legal professionals, adding that the new government should listen carefully to the public’s concerns and try to understand what its needs are when dealing with the judicial system.
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