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Ma Ying-jeou misses opportunity to parley with protesters
Publication Date : 25-03-2014
Apparently, President Ma Ying-jeou still doesn't understand what triggered student activists' anger.
As the “occupy the Legislature” movement entered its sixth day, Ma finally held an international press conference on the matter at the Presidential Office yesterday morning. Unfortunately, Ma messed up the opportunity to have a “talk” with the protesters.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah squeezed through thousands of protesters around the Legislative Yuan on Saturday and attempted to talk with them. Jiang's microphone, which was handed to him by one of the student activists, was muted after he failed to promise the two demands raised by protesters: rejection of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement and legislation for a draft Bill on Pacts between Taiwan and China — a draft bill to regulate the government's power to sign agreements with China.
Jiang failed to communicate with protesters in person. While hundreds of students are still occupying the Assembly Hall, Ma, as president of the Republic of China, should have used the international press conference as an opportunity to talk with the protesters.
Instead, Ma addressed his 15-minute speech to all Taiwanese and foreigners, saying that he acknowledges the students' passion, but they violated the law by occupying the Legislative Yuan. He asked “is that the democracy that we want?”
Ma said that as the president, he has to defend democracy and laws in accordance with the ROC Constitution, stressing that without the law there won't be democracy.
That is very ironic, as it was Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung who broke the cross-caucus resolution last Monday and submitted the service trade pact to the Yuan Sitting, the straw that broke the camel's back and led to the demonstrations.
Ma defended Chang by saying that Chang was forced by circumstances, adding that he would not comment on things that happened at the Legislative Yuan out of respect for the Legislature's autonomy.
Ma's double standard in respecting the laws and democracy clearly will not convince people, especially those who have spent six days sitting in the Assembly Hall.
Since Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, Premier Jiang and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin have promised that they will not use force to evict the student activists, Ma should have created opportunities for the protesters to leave the Assembly Hall. But how is it possible for them to leave the Legislative Yuan when they have been called “law-violating demonstrators?”
People are disappointed with the Legislative Yuan's irresponsible way of handling the service trade pact, but they are angry that their elected president fails to listen to them.
The Legislature has been idling for over six days. There are other important bills waiting to be passed in this legislative session. This is not the time for Ma to pass his responsibility to Wang for handling the ongoing demonstration.
This is the time for Ma to start negotiations with the protesters. The process of the negotiations should be just like signing the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement with China, in that that both parties have to offer to take a step back. You cannot expect the protesters to leave willingly without getting anything from the Ma administration.
Ma said the rejection of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement will hurt Taiwan's credibility in international society and cross-strait relations, as well as affect Taiwan's bid to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So, instead of accepting any demand, he noted that the KMT has agreed to conduct an article-by-article deliberation of the agreement.
However, the legislation for the draft Bill on Pacts between Taiwan and China is something worthy of consideration. Ma, who doubles as the KMT chairman, may say the four-stage reviewing mechanism proposed by the KMT is sufficient oversight for the agreement-signing process with mainland China, but without a specific law to watch over the government, the “occupy the Legislature” will not be a one-time-only event.
Now the student activists have proposed a new demand, asking the ruling party and opposition to negotiate and convene “public constitutional meetings” that invite people from various corners of society to discuss the issue.
So, President Ma, what is your response?