Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wang Jin-pyng's Anger is Long Overdue

Wang Jin-pyng's Anger is Long Overdue
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 10, 2009

The election and controversy over U.S. beef imports have deadlocked the Legislative Yuan for nearly a month. Wang Jin-pyng, the normally even-tempered President of the Legislative Yuan, could no longer contain himself. He blasted the Democratic Progressive Party, saying "The DPP legislative caucus simply does whatever it damned well pleases." He said the Legislative Yuan's negative pubic image was a direct result of such legislative ineptitude paralyzing the democratic process. Wang Jin-pying should be angry. In fact, he should have gotten angry a long time ago.

A democratic society must reconcile different views. That is why it is inefficient. The advantage of a democratic society is that no matter how wide the gap between differing views, one can always reach some sort of compromise. But not so with our current Legislative Yuan. The tiniest difference invariably brings the entire legislature to grinding halt. A number of years ago a major controversy over the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant deadlocked the legislature. The halting of construction caused further discord. A move to impeach the president could not be introduced. The legislature must be allowed to function normally. The public pays hard-earned taxes providing legislators with expensive vehicles, homes, and clothing. They dine in five-star restaurants. They bask in the public spotlight. Never mind that many of them are under indictment. They bear heavy responsibilities, including reviewing the national budget and setting major policies. Yet all it takes is a dispute over US beef imports to completely paralyze the legislature, leaving no room for dialogue, or even fisticuffs. Their jobs can be summed up in a single word: "sinecures."

Wang Jin-pying has been President of the Legislative Yuan for years. He has always attempted to reconcile differences. He never uses coercive methods to settle disputes. He has avoided pre-election disputes between the ruling and opposition parties. It is bad enough that problems have not been dealt with. What excuse is there for allowing the Legislative Yuan to remain deadlocked, when the election is already over? The DPP has only 27 seats. Take a look at the Legislative Yuan following the elections. DPP legislators did not use brute force to occupy the podium. They did not lock the President of the Legislative Yuan out of the legislature. All it took was a gathered mob to paralyze the legislature for an entire day. Such is the miracle of Taiwan's democracy.

Strangest of all, what happened to over 90 KMT legislators? Absent party mobilization, KMT legislators couldn't be bothered to show up. Only a handful of legislators were in attendance. Had the President of the Legislative Yuan called for a vote, no bill could have made it through. KMT legislators are paid their monthly salaries, allowances, and assistants fees no matter what they do. They show up on time at the legislature every day at 9:00 am. They hold press conference. They allow themselves to be interviewed by the electronic media as the opportunity arises. If they're not criticizing the president, they're criticizing the party chairman. They one thing they don't do is attend to the normal business of the legislature. Is this not strange? If attending to the business of the legislature is so difficult, why did they run so hard for the position of legislator?

Wang Jin-pying was right to blast the DPP. But let's not forget that the overwhelming majority of seats in the legislature are held by the Kuomintang. Paralyzing the Legislative Yuan may be an opposition party tactic. The DPP likes to say "No!" out of sheer orneriness. But shouldn't the ruling KMT show a little gumption? Shouldn't it settle any disputes that arise? The public cares nothing about legislative protocol. All it knows is that a single dissenting voice can force the legislature to conduct consultations, and that consultations can drag on for half a year. The public has only one question. Why can't the KMT, which commands over 90 seats, successfully promote its policies and pass its bills?

Every day, Blue Camp legislators ridicule President and Party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou for incompetence. They fail to see that they are one of the main reasons for the Ma administration's abysmal record and for President Ma's loss of prestige. Most of the policies the Ma administration wants to promote are stalled in the Legislative Yuan. They are stalled because KMT legislators have neither the motivation nor energy to guide them through the legislative process.

Take the controversy over U.S. beef imports for example. In response to public demand, Blue Camp legislators proposed an amendment. Coordination between party officials and the Ma administration led to another version, more in line with the Executive Yuan's. The DPP protested, and made public the Blue Camp legislators' cell phone numbers. Blue Camp legislators backed down and refused to sign the bill. If KMT legislators are this gutless, what can the Ma administration possibly promote in the way of policy? It cannot even promote a bill to resolve the dispute over United States beef imports, by amending the Food Sanitation Management Law. How can it push through a far more controversial cross-Strait bill? No wonder former Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang is pessimistic about the Ma administration's chances of signing ECFA according to schedule.

The Department of Health loosened restrictions on US beef imports. This precipitated two months of controversy. Government and opposition legislators joined forces, trumpeting their determination to defend the peoples' health. There was no shortage of pundits to denounce the Ma administration. There was no shortage of agitators demanding a public referendum. There was no shortage of legislators demanding an immediate amendment to the laws. It was all so laughable. These initiatives allowed legislators to feign concern for public health. But they had no practical impact whatsoever. The only initiative that had any impact was one launched by the Taipei City Government, involving private oversight by the meat industry. So far not one business has applied for an import permit. In other words, legislators need not demagogue an issue, only to accomplish nothing of value. People have the ability to make decisions concering their own health. If every policy or bill leads to paralysis in the Legislative Yuan, what's the point of having a Legislative Yuan?

The Three in One Elections are over. The ruling and opposition parties each have their own interpretation of the results. Regardless of who won or lost, as long as the Legislative Yuan is paralyzed time and again, the public will reach its own conclusions. It will conclude that the Democratic Progressive Party knows only how to engage in obstructionism. It will conclude that the KMT only knows how to talk the talk, not how to walk the walk. Neither the ruling nor opposition party will be the winner.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2009.12.10










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