Barricading the Legislature shows Tsai's spinelessness
The China Post News Staff Thursday, April 20, 2017, 12:02 am TWN
The final gauntlet of the grueling pension reform process was marred by physical violence Wednesday as protesters moved to block ruling party lawmakers from entering the Legislative Yuan.
Pension reform, as this paper has reiterated many times before, is a must.
Taiwan must ensure that the younger generation — already burdened by stagnant wages and high living costs — will have pensions themselves when they reach retirement age. Failure to reform the system not only jeopardizes the sustainability of future pensions but social stability as a whole.
However, the anger of the anti-reform protesters was palpable and even understandable. Kept out of the Legislative Yuan by barbed wire and barricades reminiscent of a bygone era, protesters hurled invective and water at lawmakers.
President Tsai Ing-wen later made an unprecedented move, issuing a statement from the Presidential Office press room for the first time since taking office. She said the government would not allow violence to delay reforms.
"No one likes barbed wire and barricades. But I implore everyone to have patience. These inconveniences are to allow the smooth legislative review of pension reforms," she said.
Unfortunately, the president's words are more likely to stoke the protesters' anger rather than ease it.
In 2014, young people with a political agenda barged into and occupied the Legislative Yuan themselves, forming what became the Sunflower Movement. Some of them later moved to occupy the Executive Yuan but were held back by police.
Earlier this month, charges were dropped for the student leader who led the break-in, infuriating the opposition, which argued that the government was condoning violence.
"If the Sunflower movement can, why can't we," some protesters said.
Indeed, moves by the Tsai administration to favor the political action of groups it favors over those whose policies it opposes bankrupt the notion that the public good — including laws, courts and other institutions maintaining social order — should serve the citizens of the entire country, not just partisan interests.
Tsai, by barricading the Legislative Yuan, acted no differently than previous administrations did when their policies were called into question. The physical barricades also run deep into the psyche of our leaders: ready to block out the reasoning behind those who oppose them, making them "Others" devoid of agency and rationality.
A president who continues to rule this way — misleadingly offering opportunities to form consensus to those she can subdue with unsubstantiated promises and erecting barriers to those who she knows she cannot — will create even more social cleavages within Taiwan.
We call on the president to tear down the physical and mental barricades, and speak openly to groups opposed to pension reforms. It's not only a matter of good optics, but a matter of conveying a governing posture borne of confidence, not self-righteousness. That the president is actually the leader of one people, and not just a house divided by irreconcilable differences.
MOST POPULAR OF THIS SECTION