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September 27, 2017

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Taiwan's lawmakers stuck in legislative kindergarten

On March 12, the Legislative Yuan for the first time held deliberations over the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement, after the pact was submitted by the Cabinet more than three months ago. However, the deliberation failed to be processed due to physical altercations and non-stop disputes between ruling party and opposition lawmakers.

Many DPP lawmakers on Tuesday night brought their own sleeping bags into the meeting room where the deliberation would be held, and stayed overnight in order to be the first ones to register to make comments during the meeting. Several KMT legislators blocked the podium to prevent anyone from taking it, while DPP legislators stood along the rostrum and held every microphone installed on the table.

DPP Legislators Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) were injured while fighting over microphones with KMT lawmakers. Lin took a microphone from one of the KMT lawmakers and ran away from the room to hide it.

All the above incidents took place in the stadium where lawmakers review the laws and regulations for all citizens. However, their actions, including camping in the Legislative Yuan and hiding important articles from others, can also be seen in the kindergartens of Taiwan.

It might be amusing and entertaining to watch the legislators — who are paid a monthly salary of NT$189,000 and receive handsome year-end bonuses, in addition to other subsidies each year — act like a group of 5-year-olds, but Taiwan's taxpayers don't find it as fun to pay lawmakers each year only to see them not doing their jobs.

Lawmakers from the opposition and ruling parties were fighting over the cross-strait service pact. However, many Taiwanese people do not know exactly why they should support or oppose the policy, because no party has provided an objective analysis or explanation of why we should or should not approve this policy.

For some lawmakers, shifting the focus from the cross-strait service pact to themselves works out well for them due to the fact that elections are coming up. They will do everything they can to receive media attention. Benefiting the public or Taiwan is not a priority for them at this point.

Ironically, the Executive Yuan and the president do not have the power to control the Legislative Yuan since lawmakers are protected by the right to make the laws and to speak freely. Moreover, the legislators even have the right to review the bills that determine their own salaries and benefits. So, it does not seem like there is anything that we can do to demand better and more mature law-making personnel.

In fact, people do have the right to demand an improved version of the Legislative Yuan. People have the right to vote and elect professional and honest lawmakers. It might not be an easy task, since many candidates tell voters that they are the future of Taiwan. However, people can pay attention to what current legislators do and objectively analyze if they are right for the job.

As long as voters can rationally grade the performance of each lawmaker without considering which political party they belong to, it should help create a lawmaking system that functions better. After all, no one wants to see a group of overly paid grown-ups who act like kindergarteners make the laws.

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