‘Pan purple’ alliance instant political force

The China Post, 11 August 2003

Taipei The Alliance of Fairness and Justice (AFJ) established yesterday by groups of welfare organizations representing underprivileged people in the country instantly became a new political force being wooed by major parties.

Organizers called their coalition the pan purple alliance to distinguish itself from the existing pan green camp of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its ally—the Taiwan Solidarity Union—and the opposition pan blue alliance of the Kuomintang (KMT), the People First Party, and the New Party.

All of the major parties extended overtures to the alliance, saying there is plenty room for cooperation.

In its founding declaration, the alliance said a fair and just society is not a predator that exploits others financially, socially and environmentally.

A fair and just society will not allow the social welfare system to be relegated to just a bank ATM (automated teller machine) and passbook relationship, the alliance said.

The AFJ was formed by nine of Taiwan’s social welfare organizations, including the Handicapped Union of the Republic of China, a women’s interest group The Awakening Foundation, the National Teachers’ Association, the Taiwan Laborers’ Front, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation, and the Elders’ Welfare Union.

In its inaugural affidavit, introduced by Wang Jung-chang who is the secretary-general of the Handicapped Union of the Republic of China, the alliance demands the resumption of a rich man’s tax.

It also demanded that presidential candidates spell out their policies on how national debts will be repaid as part of their campaign promises.

The alliance advocates a universal annuity system for elderly citizens of the country and a repeal of the existing retirement payment systems, which should be integrated into the universal pension system.

It trumpets the establishment of a national social aid system, expanding social and financial aid to underprivileged people at a ratio of 3 percent out of the entire population from the current ratio of 0.75 percent.

It also suggests that government improves its welfare policy toward new immigrants like foreign brides settling in the country, allowing them access to better employment and education opportunities.

Alliance head Chien Hsi-chieh said the pan purple alliance will focus on promoting fair and just social welfare services and speak for the underprivileged, including those who are becoming disadvantaged because of social injustices.

Noting that the purpose of political democratization is to better people’s lives, Chien called for both the pan-green and the pan-blue camps to shift their presidential election campaign policies to rebuilding social welfare and security.

Chien, who once served as a lawmaker at large, representing the DPP for two terms, said the alliance hopes to become a third force, which will jump-start a new wave of social and civil movements in Taiwan.

He urged all segments of Taiwan society to do some soul-searching on the ethics and values of how campaigning is carried out in Taiwan and push the ruling and the opposition parties to pass responsible election legislation.

Chien said if Taiwan society does not capitalize on the opportunity of the 2004 presidential election to steer politicians in the right direction, the people of Taiwan will always be the ultimate losers of petty political squabbles between opposing parties.

Formerly a member of the DPP’s largest faction, the New Tide, Chien said his association with the DPP will have no impact on the work of the pan purple alliance.

Other alliance officials said it is still too early to speculate whether the organization will eventually be transformed into a political party. The alliance has not yet reached consensus on whether it will nominate its own candidate for the 2004 presidential election.

Chien confirmed media reports that he had tried to persuade Lin Yi-hsiung, a former DPP chairman, to represent the new alliance as a presidential candidate. However, Lin turned down my suggestion, he said.

DPP leaders have already started referring to AFJ members as friends and comrades.

Legislator Chen Chi-mai said the alliance upholds similar ideals as the DPP’s as all major social and political reforms can only be carried out through legislative programs.

Chen said the DPP should join hands with the AFJ to form a majority coalition in the Legislative Yuan.

Wooing for more votes for the upcoming presidential election in March, Chen stressed that it won’t help the alliance to fulfillment its ideals if members cast ballots for candidates whose views differ widely from their own.

KMT lawmaker Tseng Yung-chuan said the establishment of the AFJ shows the growing distrust in the social welfare policies and programs of the ruling party.

Tseng said the new organization is an encouragement but also a warning to the pan blue alliance. He emphasized that the pan blue alliance will engage in positive interaction and close cooperation with the purple coalition to promote the general well-being of all people.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said it is a good thing to organize an alliance representing the interests of the underprivileged people, though the new organization could be leaning toward the left and socialism.

Ma said it is not a bad thing for Taiwan to have different voices for different people.