Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Darkness before the Dawn, Welcoming a Year of Hope

The Darkness before the Dawn, Welcoming a Year of Hope
Ma Ying-jeou's 2008 New Year's Day Address
translated by Bevin Chu

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On this chilly winter morning, let us bid farewell to 2007, and welcome the first faint rays of 2008.

Our hearts are filled with hope. We hope that the bitter winter solstice promises a warm spring. That the darkness heralds a new dawn. That 2008 brings renewed hope.

As we review the past year, we cannot help feeling alarmed. With great difficulty, we have laid down the foundations of democracy. Yet here we are, in our current plight. Independent agencies are anything but independent. The government bears scant resemblance to a government. The Central Election Committee has become the puppet of the Government Information Office. [Alternative:The Central Election Committee has become the Democratic Progressive Party's Reelection Committee] "Free and fair elections" have become a cruel joke. The rhetoric of hate has driven out rational debate. The tragedies of history have become political cash machines. Public prosecutors have become partisan hatchetmen. Officials have been indicted on discretionary fund charges on the basis of party affiliation. Elections have become tools to retain power, and not means to fulfill the voters' aspirations. The president has even hinted that he might impose such anti-democratic measures as "postponing" the election, nullifying the results of the election, or even imposing martial law.

In any genuinely democratic nation, such irresponsible rhetoric would have touched off a political firestorm. But on Taiwan, politicians treat such talk as word games. They seem unaware they have already undermined Taiwan's image as a democracy and made our allies uneasy. Our allies have sent officials to Taiwan to express their concerns, fearful that the presidential election won't be held as anticipated, that political authority will not be transferred peacefully, that Taiwan will destroy Asia's hard-won development.

This is the darkside. That said, we remain filled with hope. Polls reveal that over half the people believe it is time for political change. Only if a new government takes over will our political fortune improve. Seven out of ten people feel that economic development far outweigh political concerns. The people are telling us that what they want is the pursuit of happiness. What they want is an end to joblessness. Teachers and parents are telling us that the ruling DPP must be replaced, that it must be taught a lesson. If the ruling regime's barbaric conduct and politics of hate cannot be brought to an end, they won't know what to tell their children.

Our New Year's resolution is crystal clear. Listen to the people.

First. For the sake of our children, for the sake of future generations, we must force the corrupt ruling party to step down. We must give it an opportunity to engage in self-examination, and allow our society to reclaim its core values.

Secondly. For our fellow citizens economic well-being, we must bring an end to political rhetoric and return to economic issues. If the people cannot live in peace, that is the government's responsibility, an indicator of the government's ineptitude.

Thirdly. We must win back the right to govern. Only then can we fulfill our promises to the public. In future elections, we must ensure free and fair elections. We must not allow any party to remain in power by means of political deceit. No matter what the results of the election might be, we must demand that the government guarantee the peaceful transfer of political power, avoid political unrest, and ensure democratic stability.

2008 is a watershed year. The peoples' fortunes, the survival of democracy, the struggle between light and dark, between integrity and corruption, rests in our hands. The fate of the next generation, awaits our decision.

We know our task is daunting. That is why we must persevere! Let us advance together, through the darkness before the dawn, toward a future filled with hope!

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