Alexa

Ma's 'shock' plan for southern Taiwan

Still reeling from the onslaught of Typhoon Morakot which left 750 dead or missing and inflicted economic damages of up to NT$23 billion, southern Taiwan now faces another imminent disaster in the form of the "reconstruction" policies of President Ma Ying-jeou's Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) administration.
After manifesting failing to carry out the tasks of disaster rescue and relief with speed and effectiveness, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan's KMT Cabinet has submitted to the Legislative Yuan a vaguely worded draft "Special Statute for Post-Disaster Reconstruction after the Aug. 8 Typhoon Morakot Disaster" and an accompanying NT$100 billion special reconstruction budget that fully reflects the ruling party's bureaucratic, top-down and secretive policy making habits.
Regretfully, the spirit underlying the KMT draft statute departs dramatically from the generally successful reconstruction effort following the 7.6-magnitude Chichi earthquake of Sept. 21, 1999 launched under the former KMT administration of Taiwan-born president Lee Teng-hui and implemented under the subsequent Democratic Progressive Party government. For example, the KMT government's draft statue would site the "88 Disaster Reconstruction Commission" under the Ministry of the Interior instead of directly under the premier and require that the new commission be composed entirely of central government officials in sharp contrast to the requirement in the "921" law that the mayors of the affected cities and counties and representatives of disaster victims be included. Preoccupied with rebuilding "hardware" infrastructure, the KMT-proposed reconstruction statute contains no mention of "cultural assets reconstruction," "community rebuilding" or "emotional reconstruction" and does not address the special problems of cultural inheritance and community cohesion faced by indigenous peoples villages, which suffered the greatest losses from Typhoon Morakot. An even more obvious regretful from the community-based spirit of the "921" reconstruction effort lies in Article 12 and Article 13.
Article 12 would give central government and local governments the power to compulsorily order the removal of villages, naturally almost exclusively of indigenous peoples, from designated areas with no provisions for consultation with village assemblies or communities.
Article 13 would permit the resettlement of disaster victims without regard to laws or regulations concerned with urban or rural planning, national park management, environmental impact assessment, water or soil conservancy or "other related laws," including the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law.
While Liu has stated that the principles of national land recovery will guide the effort, the fact that the KMT-controlled legislature boycotted the draft national land planning law and the draft national land recovery statute proposed by the former DPP government for over four years gives scant cause for optimism that the Liu Cabinet will promote this principle. In addition, the absence of city and county mayors and disaster victim or indigenous peoples representatives on the proposed national reconstruction commission has given rise to suspicions that the KMT government will bypass DPP city and county mayors and directly disburse funds and projects without hindrance from any civic monitoring, to township governments, most of which are run by KMT commissioners, in the run-up to year-end county elections.
Liu's declaration Sunday that donating conglomerates and businesses should participate directly in the process of deciding the utilization of reconstruction funds has sparked fears of a replication in southern Taiwan of the disastrous "reconstruction" of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina which witnessed the massive privatization of public services through top-down "shock capitalism" instead of bottom-up community based rebuilding. An alternative draft proposed by the DPP, formulated with the assistance of former Cabinet officials involved in the "921" reconstruction and mindful of the views of civic and indigenous peoples organizations, offers numerous improvements.
For example, the DPP version highlights the principle of democratic and community participation and respect for cultural pluralism in the reconstruction process, including the formation of grassroots reconstruction committees and by requiring that the national reconstruction commission be convened by the premier and include city and county mayors and disaster victim representatives.
Importantly, the DPP version's Article 24 would require that any proposals to relocate villages and communities in ecological danger zones be decided through "open and democratic" processes instead of being commanded from the top down.
The DPP version also would require that reconstruction work be guided by the values of national land recovery to foster both environmental sustainability and local employment and, in Article 51, would explicitly specify that the Cabinet submit a draft medium - and long-term national land recovery plan within six months of passage.
The content of the KMT government's draft bill confirms concerns that the Liu government has failed to grasp the reasons for its inept disaster response and, unless immediately replaced, will set a fixed course toward a top-down, undemocratic, partisan and enterprise oriented "reconstruction" instead of fostering "bottom-up," participatory, pluralistic and community-based rebuilding process.
We urge all lawmakers to exercise caution in this legislation to avoid inflicting a disaster even worse than Typhoon Morakot to affected communities and indigenous peoples villages and Taiwan's democracy, human rights and ecology.