Legislature Under Occupation:
Speaker and Legislators Cannot Sit Idly By
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 21, 2014
Summary: The ruling and opposition party legislators feel little sense of responsibility. They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the legislature to be occupied. If Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng still has any dignity left to speak of, he should immediately order ruling and opposition party legislators back to the negotiating table. He should see that negotiations over the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services resume. The police did not allow the legislature to be occupied. These derelict legislators did. They have the responsibility to regain control of the legislature from the students.
Full text below:
Students opposed to the "Cross-Strait Agreement in Trade in Services" continue to occupy the Legislative Yuan. Outside, expressions of support are growing louder. Viewed from without, the fear is not that the situation will get out of control. The fear is that no peaceful resolution will be found. Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pying and ruling and opposition party legislators are sitting on the walls outside the legislature. They must resume negotiations. They must regain control of the legislature from the students.
The students have been protesting for two days. For the most part, they have been orderly. This is the biggest difference between them and most political party and social movement protests. The problem with the student movement is that it is easy to start but difficult to stop. Especially since the 500 or so students currently occupying the legislature belong to different schools and come from different regions. Several leaders are on the scene. But it is difficult to say whether these hundreds of demonstrators share the same goals. Over the past two days they issued three demands, which abruptly turned into four demands. As we can see, the participants are indecisive.
The incident has attracted international notice. There are two reasons for this. One. The halls that the students have occupied represent the sovereign authority of a democratic legislature. This is a first for the ROC. It is also rare in other nations. A recent example is the occupation of the Ukrainian Parliament in February by protesting militants. But Ukranian society and democracy are not as mature and stable as the ROC's.
Two. The proximate cause was last year's decision by the ruling and opposition parties to conduct a line item review and line item vote on the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services. During the process, the DPP deliberate dragged its feet. During the Joint Legislative Committee Meeting, the KMT sent the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services to committee. This provoked public anti-agreement sentiment. This must be properly resolved. Otherwise future agreements with other nations or regional economic organizations will be affected by this incident and progress will be difficult.
The student occupation of the legislature held up a mirror. One side reflected government dereliction. The other side reflected democratic loss of control. The Legislative Yuan is the symbol of the nation's sovereignty. It is the highest representative of the public will. But in recent years, it has often solved problems through backroom deals. Legislative review is invariably plagued by obstructionism, foot-dragging, and deal-making. Majority rule and public consultation under democracy are no more. Bills that reach the Legislative Yuan fall into an black hole, never to see the light of day. The executive branch is afraid of offending the Legislative Yuan. Most of the time it stews in its own juices. This truly is government dereliction.
Consider the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services. It was submitted to the Legislative Yuan in June last year. There it sat for a full nine months before being submitted for committee review. One may support the bill or oppose it. But is this any way to treat such a serious matter? In fact, the ruling and opposition parties had no interest whatsoever in substantive review. The DPP scheduled the review only so that it could filibuster it. The KMT scheduled the review only so it could get it out of the way. The two parties turned the legislature into the colosseum or circus. Under the circumstances, the consequences of submitting the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services for committee review were totally forseeable.
That of course does not mean the students had a right to occupy the Legislative Yuan. Democracies generate legislators through periodic elections. The legislature is inviolable. Not because individual legislators are inviolable, but because the legislature is a body that exercises sovereignty on behalf of the people. The legislature symbolizes the will of the people. Unless the legislature uses democracy to destroy democracy, and illegally alters its democratic institutions, then forcing one's way into the legislature and occupying it shames the nation and shames democracy. Are 5.86 million votes that elected over 60 KMT legislators unrepresentative? If they are not, then how representative are 500 students?
Not everyone agrees with the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services. The review process may have been flawed. But opposition to the agreement is merely one of many dissenting views, with no greater validity than any other. Furthermore, the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services has only been submitted for committee review. It has yet to be finalized. It has yet to get on track. Allegations of "anti-democratic" and "black box operations" are clearly exaggerations. The student occupation of the Legislative Yuan was clearly an overreaction. Is this not a case of democratic loss of control?
The students are not the ones who must be condemned. Those who must be condemned are the ruling and opposition party politicians sitting on the wall outside. They used the students as pawns. Consider the ruling and opposition party attitudes. President Ma said he "respected the autonomy of the legislature," then passed the buck to the legislature. Wang Jin-pyng pontificated about "protecting the students " and "public safety," then passed the buck back to the executive. DPP legislators furnished the students with weapons and provisions. They helped them prepare for a protracted battle. The Green Camp princes chuckled as they used these students as cannon fodder. They were only too happy to reap the windfall. Are any of these people treating student discontent seriously?
The ruling and opposition party legislators feel little sense of responsibility. They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the legislature to be occupied. If Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng still has any dignity left to speak of, he should immediately order ruling and opposition party legislators back to the negotiating table. He should see that negotiations over the Cross Strait Agreement in Trade in Services resume. The police did not allow the legislature to be occupied. These derelict legislators did. They have the responsibility to regain control of the legislature from the students.
2014.03.21 03:49 am