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China Times: Is it a lawmaker's job to question an official's posture?

2012/06/03 17:44:58

Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai wore sneakers recently to a legislative hearing, knowing that she would have to stand for eight hours to answer lawmakers' questions. Some opposition legislators were not happy about that, and they also demanded to know why she was leaning on her hands with her elbows on the rostrum while she was being questioned.

Since when have our lawmakers switched their attention from officials' policy initiatives to their postures when standing or sitting?

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers Kuan Bi-ling and Tuan Yi-kang kept hounding Lung, simply to "prove" that she was not respectful enough of the Legislature.

Poor Minister Lung -- she was wrong to be leaning on her hands and folding her arms across her chest, according to Kuan and Tuan. Did they indeed mean to tie her up during the questioning period?

These opposition lawmakers probably did not know how to attack the social critic-turned minister, so they could only resort to criticizing her body gestures. Such off-mark behavior just goes to show that they were ill prepared to discuss policy issues with her and were not smart enough to question her knowledge and ideas.

By tagging Lung with such senseless descriptions as "thick-faced" and "flower vase," the DPP legislators were actually hurting themselves because the public witnessed their least graceful side.

In fact, Tuan was asking whether a planned human rights museum will fully display the role of former President Chiang Kai-shek in the Feb. 28, 1947 Incident and the ensuing "white terror" in Taiwan.

All three popularly elected presidents of the Republic of China -- Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou -- have taken the initiative to issue apologies, publish investigative reports and offer compensation to victims of those tragic chapters in Taiwan's history.

We must not forgot that the DPP was in power for eight years, from 2000 to 2008, during which two human rights facilities in Jingmei and Green Island were established without giving a clear-cut answer to the question Tuan now is demanding that the Kuomintang government answer.

If the DPP could not or would not answer that question during its time in power, is it qualified to demand that its successor give an answer?

And Lung actually has provided her answer to this question in her previous writings, but she chose to remain reserved as a Cabinet member in the Ma administration. She was being cautious and deferential, in order not to impose her "personal values" on the state machine.

Lung was by no means showing her "timidity" on this controversial question -- as Tuan accused her of doing -- because her judgment and values were already revealed in her essays.

What's wrong with a culture minister who suggested that the museum managers talk with victims, their families and professionals about what kinds of historical materials to display irrespective of each individual's political stance and ideological background?

Legislators are responsible for supervising the operations of the executive branch, which is held accountable by the legislative branch. The two are equal in status and are supposed to show basic respect and decorum toward each other.

A legislator's critical remarks about a Cabinet member cannot damage the minister's dignity; rather, they serve to taint the image of the Legislature.

Lung showed her basic human decency by remaining calm and composed in the face of humiliating remarks hurled at her by irrational "interrogators."

If even the highest lawmaking body of Taiwan has lost its basic decency, how can we expect Taiwan to remain part of the civilized world? (Editorial abstract -- June 3, 2012)

(By S.C. Chang)