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Ex-AIT director, academics express concern over reform bills in joint statement

05/21/2024 05:27 PM
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Taipei, May 21 (CNA) William Stanton, former Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and over two dozen academics issued a joint statement Monday expressing their concern over a set of parliamentary reforms proposed by Taiwan's opposition parties.

The reforms, proposed by the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), "exceed the bounds of those found in constitutional democracies around the world, subvert the rule of law and parliamentary procedures," the statement said.

"Major controversies encompassed within the reforms include the introduction of contempt of parliament charges, requiring the head of state to report to and take questions from legislators, and broadening the Legislature's investigatory powers," the statement said.

On May 17, the proposals sparked a day of scuffles in the Legislature when the opposition parties tried to advance them on the floor.

According to the statement, the KMT and TPP failed to take into account Taiwan's unique constitutional framework and legislative practices.

"They [KMT and TPP] further surpass the scope and power of parliamentary authority found in most other constitutional democracies, including allowing for government officials to be jailed simply for asking questions during hearings," it said.

The statement mentioned that while contempt of parliament or congress charges exist, "they have generally applied to the defiance of lawfully ordered subpoenas or lying in the course of judicial investigations."

Meanwhile, it also indicated that the text of the KMT-TPP reforms has not been published for public review, which was "in contravention of longstanding legislative practice."

The statement was signed by a group of 30 international academics, journalists and politicians, including Stanton, who served as AIT director from 2009 to 2012, Michael Turton, columnist at Taipei Times, Christopher Hughes, emeritus of the London School of Economics, and John Joseph Coronel, president of the Center for Liberalism and Democracy.

In Facebook posts following the Legislative Yuan scuffle, the KMT argued that the reform bills are necessary to enhance the Legislature's oversight role, bring about greater government transparency and accountability, and force the ruling party and government officials to face and respond to public opinion - which it said the ruling DPP has not had to do over the past eight years due to its legislative majority.

It argued that granting the Legislature broader "investigative rights" will help to prevent and expose scandals, such as those involving stock manipulation, government procurements and profiteering.

It also said that requiring the president to make an annual address at the Legislature and be questioned by lawmakers on the spot would help prevent presidents from shirking their responsibilities, citing for example former President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) not holding a press conference for over 700 days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, allowing the Legislature to fine or hold in "contempt of the Legislature" people or entities who do not comply with an investigative inquiry will prevent government officials from lying in the Legislature, the KMT argued.

(By Wang Yang-yu and Ko Lin)

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