Party gap on ‘truth commission’ still cavernous

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff and Agencies

The gap between political parties concerning a bill calling for the investigation of the March 19 shooting of President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu remains as wide as ever. The opposition “pan-blue alliance” of the Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) finalized on Friday its draft of a special statute on the establishment of an independent “3-19 truth investigative commission” to look into the election-eve shooting and the activation of the so-called “national security mechanism.”

According to the bill, the commission would be formed by 17 professionals recommended by the various political parties and would enjoy the same powers as those of civilian and military prosecutors.

After consulting organizations like the Judicial Reform Foundation and Prosecutors Reform Association, the alliance’s latest version of the draft statute has narrowed the focus on pursuing criminal charges. It also eliminated the clauses concerning the assignment of agency responsibilities and presidential impeachment as suggested. Legislative caucuses of various parties failed to reach consensus on the draft statute in spite of new coordination efforts last Friday. Yet legislators are expected to vote on the bill as the issue was already included on the agenda next Tuesday.

Government officials yesterday criticized the opposition for attempting to dominate the investigation by unconstitutional means because the proposed investigative commission could operate with unsupervised prosecutorial powers. Please see TRUTH on page

Commenting on the proposed commission, Executive Yuan spokesman Chen Chi-mai said the panel would obviously be unconstitutional because it would seriously infringe on judicial and prosecutorial powers.

In addition, the commission’s existence would be in violation of the principle of division of government powers as well as the principle of checks and balances, because the powerful commission would not be subject to oversight by any other organizations, Chen said.

He doubted if the commission could ever live up to the goal of staying non-partisan and objective when its members are to be recommended by political parties for the purpose of avoiding the domination of any particular party.

Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang said the “pan-blue alliance” proposed the commission with the sole purpose of antagonizing the special investigative committee proposed by President Chen Shui-bian early last month.

Chen already assigned Control Yuan President Fredrick Chien to head the panel. Su alleged the KMT and the PFP are attempting to monopolize the investigation over the shooting and cook up some “false truth” so that they would not have to face up to the reality of their defeat in the presidential election.

The “pan-blue alliance” insisted on setting up the commission patterned after the U.S. independent probe system to handle objective investigations into the controversial shooting incident and the special national securities measures implemented by the government. Many supporters of the opposition alliance still maintained that there could be alleged manipulation by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the government to give President Chen an advantage in the March 20 election.

They hoped the truth commission would help clear up any doubts lingering in people’s minds and also clear the names of the ruling party and President Chen if no foul play was involved so that the whole country can put the issue behind and move on.