Legislative Yuan’s extraordinary sitting to kick off today

The China Post staff and Reuters

The Legislative Yuan starts today to review some 20 bills related to public infrastructure projects, legislative reforms, and a probe into the March 19 shooting in an extraordinary session which will end in two weeks. Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties reached a final agreement during’s yesterday meeting on which bills should be put on the agenda for the extra session. Among the bills chosen are a special budget of around NT$500 billion for infrastructure projects over a five-year period, a special bill to authorize the creation of an independent investigation committee on the election-eve shooting and proposed regulation on the funeral industry. However, some lawmakers who were unhappy about the selection of the 20 priority bills voiced their opposition in the chamber. Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Liu Cheng-hung, who was lobbying for the legislation of the farmer retirement draft bill, vowed to boycott the extraordinary session.

The plan to cut the Legislature by half enjoys broad support because most voters believe it would force parties to take more responsibility for their nominations and weed out unruly candidates who sometimes launch fist fights in parliament.

“The passage of the constitutional amendments will be decided by the entire Legislature. But we can be certain the proposals to amend the Constitution will be discussed,” legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng was quoted by the China Times as saying.

“This will be longest parliament extra session in history,” Wang said.

Outside parliament on Tuesday, widely respected veteran democracy activist Lin Yi-hsiung led dozens of straw-hatted activists in a quiet protest to demand the ratification of the proposal on halving the number of lawmakers. Please see YUAN on page

Lin, a former chairman of President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said politicians should be held accountable for failing to keep their promises.

“All political parties agreed to the proposal three years ago, but today they are still discussing whether or not to do it,” said Lin.

“Taiwan faces a very serious problem because our politicians don’t keep their promises. The importance of credibility is far above constitutional reforms,” Lin said.

The opposition People First Party (PFP), which had objected to putting parliament reform on the agenda because it did not want to rush the bills, changed its stance after the parties agreed to invite constitutional experts to attend six public hearings.

The ruling DPP had accused the smaller PFP of opposing the reform out of fear of losing its influence in a smaller legislature.

Opposition legislators say they also want to pass a bill — which the DPP opposes — at the special session to set up an independent inquiry into the election-eve assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian.

The opposition says the shooting, which slightly wounded Chen in the abdomen on March 19, may have been staged to win sympathy votes and says it cost them victory. Chen won a second term in office by a 0.2 percent margin.