Where is the Legislative Yuan's Inside Force?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 19, 2012
Summary: Last week the DPP occupied the Legislative Yuan podium for five days and four nights, and prevented the legislature from conducting business. When reporters asked Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng when the legislature would convene, Wang replied: It depends on when the KMT can clear the podium. Wang said: Once the KMT caucus clears the podium, I can return and preside over the legislature, even if it's in the middle of the night.
Full Text below:
Last week the DPP occupied the Legislative Yuan podium for five days and four nights, and prevented the legislature from conducting business. When reporters asked Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng when the legislature would convene, Wang replied: It depends on when the KMT can clear the podium. Wang said: Once the KMT caucus clears the podium, I can return and preside over the legislature, even if it's in the middle of the night.
Wang's response was mind-boggling. Party A resorts to brute force to occupy the podium, making it impossible for the legislature to conduct business. Yet Wang expects Party B to assume responsibility for clearing the podium? Wang is essentially saying that whether the Legislative Yuan can convene depends on who is able to occupy and hold the podium using brute force, even if it means drawing blood. .
The discussion has now turned to whether the Speaker of the Legislature should invoke his police powers. Speaker Wang as it turned out, had nothing new to add. He said: The legislature is independent. It must not be subject to intervention by outside forces. I am the Speaker of the Legislature. I will not invoke my police powers.
Wang's answer has two problems. One. The Speaker of the Legislature may have his own political style. The approach he adopts may be hard or soft, flexible or rigid, depending upon the situation. But the Speaker of the Legislature must remain fair and neutral. He must maintain order. He must take care of business. President Wang insisted he would not invoke his police powers. That is his prerogative. But he must ensure that the legislature is able to get its work done. After all the Speaker of the Legislature has a constitutional duty to "maintain order and tend to the business of the legislature." This is not a matter of discretion. The Speaker may remain above the fray. But he may not forsake his duties.
No one is forcing the Speaker of the Legislature to invoke his police powers. But the Speaker must ensure that the legislature can take care of business. This is the least he can do. Otherwise any Speaker of the Legislature can cite discretion as an excuse for dereliction of duty. That is hypocrisy.
Two. Wang refers to the invoking of police powers as "intervention by outside forces." His spin bears scant resemblance to reality. The Sargeants at Arms of the Legislative Yuan are not "outside forces." They are "inside forces." They answer to Legislative Yuan officials. They are not part of the National Police Administration. Speaker Wang Jin-pyng personally approved the implementation of the Legislative Yuan Security Guard Duty Regulation. Article 5 stipulates that "In order to maintain order, prevent harm, and protect members of the legislature, security personnel should enter the premises and fulfill their guard duties at the behest of legislators or the Chairman." The Legislative Yuan's police powers have nothing to do with the Executive Yuan National Police. Administration. It is not an "outside force." It is an "inside force," answerable to the Speaker or the Chairman.
Most legislatures in democratic nations the world over, including the US and the UK have "inside forces" such as Sargeants at Arms. In the past European parliaments have ejected legislators because they were too disruptive. It has been some time since the Speaker of the Legislature has invoked these police powers.
The Legislative Yuan Sargeants at Arms are an "inside force." Referring to any action on their part as "intervention by outside forces" is grossly misleading. The legislature has been paralyzed. It can no longer conduct business. The Speaker of the Legislature is well within his rights to call in the Sargeants at Arms. After all, they are an "inside force." But he must first seek other "inside forces" to break the deadlock. He cannot wait until legislators spill blood before clearing opposition party legislators from the poidium. Outside forces may not intervene in the Legislative Yuan. But the Speaker of the Legislature must tell the public what the Legislative Yuan's "inside forces" are doing about the occupation?
The violent protests in the Legislative Yuan have an historical context. During the transition from the authoritarian era to the democratic era, many injustices occurred. These injustices provided a veneer of legitimacy for violent protests, and helped them win public sympathy. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chang Chun-hsiung once slapped Speaker of the Legislature Liang Su-yung in the face. But martial law was lifted over 20 years ago. The political system is increasingly fair. The workings of the legislature are increasingly transparent. Most people will not tolerate protests that are excessively violent. Suppose the Speaker of the Legislature insisted on walking up to the podium? Would any legislator dare slap him in the face? We have gone from cracking skulls to counting heads. Both the ruling and opposition parties should make an effort. But the Speaker of the Legislature bears the greatest responsibility in getting the Legislative Yuan to change its habits.
Take the U.S. beef imports controversy. The two parties clashed. The two sides adopted such rigid postures they had trouble backing down. The Speaker of the Legislature should impose order and discipline. Paradoxically he may provide both parties with a face saving measure. If the Speaker can set two successful examples, the Legislative Yuan wrestling match may end without bloodshed. In Europe and the United States one no longer sees sargeants at arms ejecting people. This is because many legislators were ejected in the past.
Speaker Wang Jin-pyng is a political player, adept at smoothing things over. His political savvy is hard to match. This is why Speaker Wang is perceived as "fair and neutral." This is also why he has the influence required to restore order. Speaker Wang can of course choose not to invoke his police powers. We affirm his decision to exercise restraint. But he must use "inside force" to restore the dignity of the the Speaker of the Legislature. He must not wait for any "outside force" to clear the podium on his behalf.