President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday called on new Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) to uphold the core value of "Taiwan identity" and organize a wide-ranging policy debate in the governing party in preparation for a second "Economic Development Advisory Conference."
Chen issued the call during a lengthy address made at the swearing-in ceremony for the new DPP chairman, who previously served as the presidential chief of staff, at the DPP's headquarters in Taipei City yesterday.
Referring to a newly published book "The Green Era: 25 Years of Taiwan's Democratic Movement," Chen recalled that the DPP had passed through several stages of democratic struggle against the authoritarian regime of the former ruling Chinese Nationalist Party before "breaking through the party-state system through a peaceful method based on the sacred votes of the people" in the March 18, 2000 presidential election.
The president recalled that Yu had been the chairman of the historic meeting of September 28, 1986 at Taipei's Grand Hotel in which the DPP was founded in defiance of KMT martial law prohibitions.
Chen related that the DPP has developed through recurrent challenges and trials without the benefit of "party assets" or funds from the National Treasury.
Instead, Chen related, "the only bedrock" for the DPP was the support and expectations of the Taiwan people and the DPP's adoption of "the correct road" of "Taiwan consciousness" and identity.
Chen warned that it would be meaningless for the DPP to exist or administer the country if the party "departed from the people" or "turned its back on 'Taiwan consciousness."
Urging the party to learn the lessons from its setback in the December 3 local elections, the president stressed that "democracy means that the people are the masters" and reaffirmed that the DPP and all of its officials and members "must be humble, clean, selfless, continuously re-examine themselves and always stand with the people as partners."
Chen expressed special gratitude for the criticisms offered by former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who announced his decision to leave the governing party Monday, praised Lin's sacrifices and contributions to Taiwan's democratic movement and urged Yu and other DPP leaders to do their best to persuade Lin to remain in the party "and struggle together with us."
The president sharply criticized the former KMT for having "suppressed our country's beautiful name of 'Taiwan'" and "ruthlessly attacking" any thing that reflected Taiwan native culture, literature, art and language.
Chen said this decades-long suppression had "created today's divisions over Taiwan national identity and ethnic tensions and mistrust," adding that "this is the greatest crisis and challenge facing Taiwan."
The president affirmed that "Taiwan is our country" and that Taiwan's sovereignty belongs to the 23 million Taiwan people and does not belong to the People's Republic of China" and that "only the 23 million people of Taiwan have the right to decide the future of Taiwan."
Chen stated that this position had become "the mainstream concept among the Taiwan people regarding Taiwan's sovereignty," even though not everyone agrees.
The president stated that "a certain leader of another political party," referring to KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), had openly expressed that "unification" is his party's ultimate goal.
While stating that diverse views must be respected in a democratic society, Chen warned that "a house divided cannot stand" and that "if there is no national identity, there can be no way to defend the security of the country or to defend the national interests."
"This is why we must continue to uphold this correct path of 'Taiwan consciousness' despite facing countless difficulties and challenges," Chen said.
The president also called on all levels of government to realize the concept of "Taiwan consciousness" as the "best force for defense of national security" and in order to "safeguard Taiwan's competitive advantage" through continuously investing in Taiwan and carrying out risk management.
"This is the best core value for fighting to improve Taiwan's economy," the president said, adding that more efforts were needed to enhance feeling and identity for Taiwan in culture and art, to actively care for disadvantaged citizens in social construction and realize concretely the principle of social fairness and justice.
Chen declared that the DPP had always been a "liberal and open party" and had never had a "patriarchal system" and said that "boldly speaking out is our tradition" and related that the DPP had held major public debates on many key issues in the past, including policy toward China.
Noting that the DPP has major internal differences and advocations regarding the party's political direction and its policy toward China, the president urged Yu to take as his first priority the preparation of an internal party "debate of the century" on the DPP's strategy and political line and "through frank, rational and systematic debate bring together the wisdom and the consensus of all the party."
The president stated that "only after the party has a consistent position" would it be possible to hold a long-awaited second multi-partisan "Economic Development Advisory Conference" in order to "formulate a more complete and clearer blueprint for the future national economic and trade development strategy."
Chen also said the DPP was resolved never to follow the "party-state" system adopted by the former ruling KMT, but acknowledged that the new government had engaged in "much thinking and experimentation" in trying to find a pattern of party and government relations that would be based on democratic principles and also be able to effectively operate.
The president expressed confidence that the new government team "will definitely be able to uphold the spirit of 'mutual consultation and division of labor and collective responsibility'" and build a "lasting system" for party and government coordination and cooperation.