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President says time, conditions ripe for a new Constitution

'Third wave' democracies need to consolidate to avoid authoritarianism, according to Chen

President says time, conditions ripe for a new Constitution

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) declared yesterday that the "time and conditions were ripe" for the promotion of a new Constitution to match the needs of Taiwan's new democratic realities and said that without such a new framework, Taiwan could not be considered to be a "complete" democratic state.
In his remarks to a day long seminar for a "Global Forum on New Democracies," President Chen warned that the over 30 new "third wave" democracies need to consolidate and deepen their democratic systems in order to overcome the common danger of a restoration of authoritarian rule.
Chen observed that while the "third wave democracies" had made progress "in leaps and bounds," the arrival of democracy had not been able to fully build a "new order" to replace the "old authoritarian regimes."
"All kinds of contradictions that had been covered up by past authoritarian governments have rapidly emerged" and "democratization often brought more confrontations, demonstrations and conflicts, and people's high expectations for democracy turned into disappointment and doubt" and even gave deposed authoritarians opportunities to regain power," related Chen.
"We nevertheless firmly believe that the difficulties and challenges these nations are dealing with can only be resolved through the further consolidating and strengthening of democracy," stressed Chen.
Don't look back
"Returning to past practices or backtracking on democracy can never provide any solutions," declared the Taiwan president.
Speaking on the question of transitional justice, Chen noted that this year marked the 60th anniversary of the February 28th Incident of 1947 in which troops of the Chinese Nationalist Party regime of the late President Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) suppressed a spontaneous uprising at the cost over 10,000 Taiwanese lives.
Describing the incident as "the greatest scale armed suppression and slaughter by the authoritarian rulers against the Taiwan people," Chen related that "the former authoritarians first denied its existence and then tried their utmost to minimize its truth and distort its significance," portraying the event as a "simple 'clash between police and civilians."
The president charged that such efforts by the KMT at minimizing or distorting the February 28th Incident "have never ceased to this day."
Chen related that after he became president, his administration worked to face the harm caused by the February 28th Incident and the long period of persecution of basic human rights during the authoritarian period through providing compensation and reparations to the surviving victims or families and restoring the reputation of persons wrongfully executed or jailed during the martial law period.
In addition, Chen said his government moved to declassify and publish secret official files on such violations of human rights and major political cases and had also made February 28th a public memorial holiday and would establish a national museum devoted to the February 28th Incident.
However, Chen acknowledged that "there has yet not been any pursuit of responsibility or any sanctions against the perpetrators" and that "transitional justice in Taiwan was relatively calm and silent."
"Our efforts have not been enough and we need to diligently look at the precious experience of other countries and need to also actively search for consensus and support among all our citizens," Chen stated.
However, the president also cautioned that Taiwan needed to find a path between the poles of transitional justice as either "truth and reconciliation" or "liquidation and struggle." While "reconciliation could not lack a sense of right and wrong," a preoccupation with "liquidation" or retribution could not necessary lead to truth and could lead to a never ending cycle of "righting wrongs," he stated.
The president noted that all five of the other new democracies represented in yesterday's forum had established new constitutions in process of democratic transition or after the transition to democracy "without exception."
"This is not an accident and was not deliberately arranged by the conference organizers, but is a common trend in new democracies," declared Chen, who stressed that the experiences of his colleagues showed that "it is essential for a new democratic constitution to replace the old constitution of the former authoritarian regime."


Updated : 2021-03-03 04:09 GMT+08:00