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Talk of the Day -- Service trade pact pushed forward amid chaos

2014/03/18 19:17:44

Pandemonium broke out Monday in the Legislature when ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers tussled as each side sought control during what was meant to be a meeting for legislative committees to screen the cross-strait trade-in-services pact.

DPP lawmakers flocked into the conference room to occupy the podium ahead of the cross-committee meeting shortly after a separate meeting of the Finance Committee ended around noon.

In the ensuing shouting match, each side labeled the other unreasonable. The DPP produced speakers to drown out their opponents with slogans and music, including a Taiwanese-language adaptation of the song "Do You Hear the People Sing" from the musical "Les Miserables," now a popular protest song in Taiwan.

Chang Ching-chung, a co-convener of the KMT caucus and the presiding chair of the cross-committee meeting, entered the conference room at 2:30 p.m., escorted by fellow party members as he tried, but failed, to edge toward the podium to initiate the meeting.

Chang meandered around the room for some time, using a wireless microphone at 2:39 p.m. to begin the meeting nevertheless before quickly announcing the pact, which he called an executive order, had passed its three-month review term -- meaning it could be considered reviewed. He then immediately called for the meeting to adjourn.

The DPP immediately lashed out, calling the meeting invalid and threatening to block all further legislative proceedings.

The following are excerpts from major newspaper coverage of the continuing battle over the pact, which was signed in June last year but only began legislative review last week:

United Daily News:

The pact was sent straight to the legislative floor Monday, sidestepping the planned "item-by-item" review process.

Judging from the development, President Ma Ying-jeou's goal to have it clear the legislature by June could be achieved.

To ensure that happens, the KMT camp has prepared two options.

The first is to get the pact to the legislative floor for a final confrontation against the opposition in an all-out vote.

In that situation, the DPP would certainly propose extending the review another three months, but the KMT, which has a majority of 65 seats in the 113-seat Legislature to the DPP's 40, could easily kill the opposition's proposal.

As the KMT is anxious to get the long-stalled pact through the Legislature, the other option is for the government to simply put it into effect without further deliberation on the basis that the review process has already exceeded the three-month window allowed for executive orders under the Act Governing the Legislative Yuan's Powers.

But the Executive Yuan feels it does not have the room to take such a drastic measure.

At any rate, the KMT believes that the review stage has come to a close, and a vote on the legislative floor seems to be in the works for April 8. (March 18, 2014)

China Times:

By bypassing the review process of the joint committees, the largest party in the country has turned the Legislative Yuan into a rubber stamp parliament.

To treat a major cross-strait agreement as an executive order is not consistent with the poise a major party should have and can only serve to hand more ammunition to the opposition camp.

The KMT and the opposition agreed last June that the pact would undergo "item-by-item review and a vote," rather than being voted as a package, and that it would not be automatically activated.

That means that the "executive order" excuse cannot be applied to pact; otherwise why would the KMT have agreed to the conditions set out by the DPP in the first place? Why would the KMT have worked alongside the DPP to hold 16 public hearings?

The pact, which was sent to the Legislature last year, has long passed the three-month period, but it took the KMT until now to mention the automatic effect mechanism.

It is clear that the KMT set its strategy a long time ago: using any means it needs in order to get the pact past the joint committee review and straight onto the floor.

This will move the major battleground to the legislative floor, putting pressure on Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng (still a member of the KMT, at least for the time being) to make his stance clear and to work to break the deadlock.

Whether the pact can be passed will hinge largely on Wang's attitude.

KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih has sought Wang's assistance to help solve the problem but has not obtained a committal response.

Wang said recently that the pact is under review by the joint committees and the legislative floor, which is under his control, has no business and no right to intervene, saying that the task must be handled patiently.

Of note is that the Taipei District Court is due to hand down a ruling on Wang's membership status Wednesday.

(Wang filed a suit against an attempt by the KMT to strip him of his party membership last September due to alleged meddling in a legal case. If he loses his membership, he is likely to also lose his seat -- and his spot as Legislature president -- as a KMT-appointed legislator-at-large.)

The ruling will relate to the ongoing political struggle between President Ma Ying-jeou and Wang, and it will add uncertainty to the service-in-trade deal. (March 18, 2014)

(By Lilian Wu)
Enditem/WH

Related stories:
●March 18: DPP plans rally to pressure KMT on trade pact with China
●March 18: Legislative floor meeting canceled amid cross-strait pact row
●March 18: Service trade pact status unclear in Legislature
●March 17: Executive Yuan calls on feuding lawmakers to pass service trade pact
●March 17: KMT lawmaker claims trade-in-service pact 'passed' despite no review