Absurd Concept of "Government-Opposition Harmony"
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 24, 2013
Summary: The cross-Strait trade in services agreement has been long delayed. Recently reports emerged that the KMT legislative caucus would ask Internal Affairs Committee members to review the trade in services agreement, and would "fully mobilize to ensure its passage." But as soon as the news broke, the Green Camp lashed out. It said, "If [the KMT] insists on forcing the issue and reviewing the agreement, it will destroy government-opposition harmony, and probably lead to bloodshed!" The "harmony above all" concept may be the final straw that destroys Taiwan's chances of survival and prosperity.
Full text below:
The cross-Strait trade in services agreement has been long delayed. Recently reports emerged that because KMT Chairman Ma had "high expectations," the KMT legislative caucus would ask Internal Affairs Committee members to review the trade in services agreement, and would "fully mobilize to ensure its passage." But as soon as the news broke, the Green Camp lashed out. It said, "If [the KMT] insists on forcing the issue and reviewing the agreement, it will destroy government-opposition harmony, and probably lead to bloodshed!" DPP legislative caucus chief convener Ker Chien-ming declared that "We'll see whether they dare!"
Many initially assumed that the KMT legislative caucus had grown a spine. After all, President Ma Ying-jeou is genuinely concerned about the status of the trade in services agreement in the legislature. He has repeatedly expressed hope that it be passed before the current legislature adjourns. President Ma is deeply concerned about the trade in services agreement, but not because he is afraid of losing face. Nor is he bending to alleged "CCP pressure." He is concerned because the trade in services agreement is vital to Taiwan's regional economic integration. It bolsters Taiwan's competitiveness among the major economies of East Asia.
Alas, much thunder was followed by little rain. Two days later, the ruling and opposition legislative caucuses announced a compromise. They agreed to hold a final public hearing on March 10 of next year. Only then would the Internal Affairs Committee examine the agreement in detail. This confirmed that the agreement cannot even be reviewed during the current session.
Rumors emerged that the KMT was finally growing a spine. Hopes were that the trade in services agreement could be reviewed during the current session. But Wang Jin-pyng disagreed. He said "It is unlikely that it can go forward without talks. Ruling and opposition party harmony is important. Better that we coordinate first, and deal with it later." "Without coordination there will always be many problems." It is understandable that the Speaker of the Legislature would stress ruling and opposition harmony and public consultations. But should harmony really trump all else? That is debatable.
First, take party politics. The basic principle of party politics is that the majority party governs, while the minority party provides oversight. The ruling party does what it can to persuade people to support its policies. It courageously and resolutely promotes its policies. The opposition party provides oversight. It also offers policy alternatives and manpower. This helps it win future elections. This relationship between governing and oversight is fundamental to political competition, free expression, democratic decision-making, majority rule, and respect for the minority. There is, in truth, no room for the "harmony above all" concept. We are not advocating conflict. We are rejecting deceit. The "harmony above all" concept undermines party politics. It weakens the ability of those in power to promote its policies. It prevents legislative review and a vote on bills. It undermines the democratic principle of majority rule.
Secondly, examine the Legislative Yuan from a practical perspective. The ruling and opposition parties previously reached an agreement. But the trade in services agreement is subject to legislative review and approval. It should not be a package deal. Until it has been reviewed by the Legislative Yuan, the provisions must not take effect. The ruling and opposition parties consulted in August. They agreed that the Internal Affairs Committee would hold 16 public hearings. The agreement would then undergo detailed review. The DPP is adept at obstructionism. It exploits the KMT's foolish concessions and carelessness regarding the circumstances under which public hearings will be held. The DPP continues to delay public hearings.
Faced with DPP delaying tactics, Wang Jin-pyng said the DPP public hearing schedule is too piecemeal. He said he would coordinate with the DPP legislative caucus to advance the public hearing schedule and allow the agreement to undergo early review. Speaker of the Legislature Wang is ostensibly a man of his word. He is chummy with Green Camp legislators. But the so-called coordination never happened. Instead, under the rubric of "harmony" between the ruling and opposition parties, the agreement was delayed from one session to the next. The review cannot take place before mid-March next year. Nor does the uncertainty end there. Politics at home are troubled. We have no assurance the DPP will not raise new objections, invoke new excuses, and resort to new tactics to delay review of the trade in services agreement. Will this be the result of Speaker Wang's "harmony above all" concept?
In fact, those opposed to the agreement already have a new proposal. They are preparing to thwart all cross-strait economic and trade agreements, including the trade in services agreement. They are arguing that the legislature should first hammer out "cross-Strait agreement oversight regulations." and a "[Mainland] Chinese Investments in Taiwan Act." They also want to amend the Overseas Chinese and Foreign Investment Regulations, the Employment Services Act, and the Mergers and Acquisitions Law. They insist that until the relevant legal procedures have been completed, the trade in services agreement may not undergo review. They have concocted all manner of plausible pretexts, including the prior establishment of an employment safety net. In fact, they are merely erecting obstacles to cross-Strait exchanges. They are merely putting Mainland investments in a special category and stigmatizing them. They are merely attempting to suppress the development of cross-Strait economic and trade relations.
Many DPP legislators now echo this sentiment. The KMT is inept. The DPP is narrow minded. The "harmony above all" concept may be the final straw that destroys Taiwan's chances of survival and prosperity.
中國時報 本報訊 2013年12月24日 04:10