Monday, November 17, 2008

Ruling and Opposition Parties: No Interference in the Chen Prosecution

Ruling and Opposition Parties: No Interference in the Chen Prosecution
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 17, 2008

The Republic of China government has arrested a former head of state. A long journey has been required to reach the point where such a thing is possible, and reflects changes in the island's democracy. This trial of the century offers us a chance to complete that journey. In reality,whether the case can proceed smoothly, depends upon step by step investigation, and ruling and opposition party non-interference. Neither should intervene in the case by political means.

The Democratic Progressive Party Central Standing Committee is standing behind Chen Shui-bian. It is accusing President Ma of using the judiciary as a political tool. It is accusing the judicial system of abusing its power. In reality the DPP Central Standing Committee is only too happy to be rid of Ah-Bian. Its approach can be characterized a number of ways. The DPP Central Standing Committee must take a stand on the matter of Chen's prosecution, politically and humanistically. The evidence arrayed against Chen Shui-bian is overwhelming. The party know that if it continues to stonewall, it will provoke a public backlash. Therefore it is challenging Ma Ying-jeou and prosecutors only on certain points of order. Meanwhile, it is using Ah-Bian's case to apply pressure on the judicial process. It hopes to "divide and conquer." It hopes to ride to the rescue of Su Feng-chi and Chen Ming-wen.

Democratic Progressive Party's political position is understandable. But its harsh charges against the judicial system are unlikely to win over the public. Leave aside other cases for the moment. Take only Ah-Bian's corruption case. The Special Investigative Unit's investigation has been conducted with enormous care. It is deathly afraid of making the slightest slip-up, for fear that people will jump all over it. The money-laundering case has a million leads. But Chen Shui-bian covered up and destroyed evidence while in office. Following these leads is extremely difficult. If it weren't for the existence of conclusive evidence, would the Special Investigative Unit dare demand Ah-Bian's arrest? If it weren't for Chen family refusal to cooperate with the investigation, would it have felt the need to detain other people? If it weren't for its respect for a former head of state, would it have waited until the last minute to detain him? If it weren't for its respect for civil rights, bordering on reverence, would it have allowed Chen's wife to cite health reasons and ignore subpoenas for two years?

Moreover, the Special Investigative Unit was established during President Chen Shui-bian's term. It was a response to the need to come down swift and hard on high officials' corruption and dereliction of duty. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party is accusing the Special Investigative Unit of being a Ma administration tool against political dissidents. Such irresponsible remarks invert cause and effect. If anything, once Swiss prosecutors sent notice, the public displayed considerable impatience over the Special Investigative Unit's snail-like progress. In the meantime, Chen Shui-bian took advantage of the opportunity to stir up trouble and to invert Right and wrong. The public was deeply dissatisfied with the Special Investigative Unit's failure to bring the case to a close. As we can see, the Special Investigative Unit was caught between a major crime and public expectations. It was in a tough situation. If it weren't for its extraordinary will and ability, it would not have achieved what it has. Both the ruling and opposition parties should affirm and treasure such results, and not run them down.

Let's look back at Taiwan's democratization. The judiciary is not yet fully independent. Two factors are responsible. One. Under authoritarianism, the executive power was dominant and oppressive. Two. Under democracy, political forces engage in intense political struggles. This has made it difficult for the justice system to reject its subordinate status and change its timid nature. To wit, Yeh Sheng-mao's practice of tipping off Chen Shui-bian. Some of Chen Shui-bian's cases were investigated during his term as president. But the investigations were half-baked, and nothing came of them. The second change in ruling parties, and international money-laundering prevention agencies caught wind of money-laundering activities. These factors helped the Special Investigative Unit break through psychological barriers. Otherwise, what are the chances Chen's crimes would have ever seen the light of day?

From an even higher perspective, the Special Investigative Unit no longer fears those in power. This is not so much the result of the second change in ruling parties, as the result of over half a century of democratic evolution. This evolution includes the Democratic Progressive Party, and even Chen Shui-bian. Is the Democratic Progressive Party willing to countenance the wanton destruction of this common legacy? A number of Green Camp public officials have called the case a "New 228 Incident." They are inflicting political violence upon the judicial process. They are destroying democracy and the rule of law. The Democratic Progressive Party has found it difficult to excise Chen Shui-bian. Now the malignancy has spread throughout the body. If the justice system is able to surgically remove the tumor, isn't that good for the party?

Ma Ying-jeou said that Ah-Bian's arrest was no occasion for gloating. That was wise. But it was not enough. The Ma administration and the Pan Blue camp must exercise greater restraint. They must allow prosecutors complete independence. They must avoid any hint of political pressure. They must not give the Green Camp any pretext to cast doubt on the final verdict. Otherwise, given Chen Shui-bian's endless trickery, any misstep could provoke a change in public mood. Matters could spin out of control. The judicial process would lose its equilibrium. It would be difficult to predict the consequences.

Democracy and the rule of law now have a solid foundation. This trial will be their first test. At least now the public on Taiwan understands the meaning of politics and the motives of individual politicians. The public on Taiwan has learned to see matters clearly. Now everyone is waiting to see who has the temerity to throw a political wrench into the wheels of justice.

2008.11.17 01:39 am


民 進黨在第一時間聲援陳水扁的中常會上,指控馬總統以司法為政治工具,並批評司法草率濫權;但黨中央的實際態度卻趨向冷處理。此一作法可以解讀為:黨中央在 政治上及人情上須作必要之表態,但因陳水扁涉貪事證相當具體,黨若繼續硬拗只是徒增社會大眾反感,因此只能就程序問題質疑馬英九和檢方。而利用扁案對司法 施壓,或許可以「圍魏救趙」,達到聲援蘇治芬及陳明文的作用。

民進黨的政治表態雖可理解,但它對司法的嚴厲指控,只怕難獲社會共鳴。其他 案件暫且不論,就扁的貪瀆案而言,特偵組的偵辦一直小心翼翼,生怕稍有差池,落人口實。須知,洗錢案頭緒萬端,尤其經過阿扁任內的遮掩滅跡,重新抽絲剝繭 何其艱難。要不是掌握確鑿跡證,特偵組哪敢聲請押人?若非扁家始終抗拒配合偵查,何須拘押其他周邊人士?又若非基於對前元首的尊重,何必等到最後一刻才將 他收押?若非對人權準據的敬畏,又何致容忍扁嫂以身體為藉口抗傳達兩年?

更何況,特偵組是在陳水扁總統任內成立,目的就是在因應時代需 要,從速、從嚴打擊高官的貪汙瀆職事件。如今,民進黨卻將特偵組說成是馬政府打擊異己的政治工具,這豈非信口雌黃,倒因為果?事實上,在瑞士檢方來函通報 後,一般輿情對特偵組的進展遲緩頗感不耐;而陳水扁在此期間四處演說煽風點火、顛倒黑白,更讓民眾對特偵組的遲未結案深感不滿。可見,特偵組夾處於棘手大 案和外界期待之間,處境並不寬鬆,若非具有過人的意志和能耐,不足辦出今天的成績。對於這樣的成果,朝野都應該善加珍惜,不容恣意破壞。

回 顧台灣的民主進程,司法的獨立性一直未能充分伸展,其間可以看到兩種因素的作用。其一,在威權年代,是受到行政權獨大的壓抑;其二,在民主年代則是過度激 烈的政治角力,讓司法難以擺脫其膽怯和附屬的性格,葉盛茂的通風報信便是明證。陳水扁所涉案件,有些在他總統任內已經偵辦過一輪,卻無疾而終或只辦了一 半。試想,要不是二次政黨輪替,要不是國際洗錢防制機構查獲洗錢情資,幫特偵組推倒了政治心障,這些黑幕哪有重見天日的機會?

再站高一點 看,特偵組如今敢以無畏的眼光直視掌權者,與其說是二次政黨輪替的溢出效果,不如說這是台灣半個多世紀來民主進化的果實;其中,當然也包含了民進黨乃至陳 水扁有過的努力。對於這樣全民共同的文明成果,民進黨難道忍心恣意破壞?綠營若干公職人員將此案喻為「新版二二八事件」,不僅是以政治之手對司法施暴,也 是在摧殘自己曾經追求的民主法治了。更別忘了,在感情上難以與扁切割的民進黨,如今全身已被病毒侵蝕甚深;若能藉由司法的專業手術切除此一惡瘤,對黨應該 是可喜之事,不是嗎?

馬英九對扁遭收押表示「哀矜勿喜」,實屬明智。但這還不夠,馬政府和整個藍營都要更加克制,不僅要給予司法檢調絕對 的獨立空間,更要避免作任何政治暗示,避免以譏誚的言詞激化綠營的不滿。否則,以陳水扁的百變手法,任何閃失都可能引起社會氣氛的變化、甚至失控,從而使 司法無法保持其既有天平,那麼後果即難逆料了。


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