‘Lavender Alliance’ starts push for a fairer society

Taiwan News, Monday 11 August 2003

Several major social movement and welfare organizations combined on Sunday to form a new pan-lavender alliance to push Taiwan’s political parties to bring back social issues into the upcoming presidential election.

Officially named the Alliance for Fairness and Justice, the new league issued a manifesto declaring that Taiwan’s chances for sustainable development had been annihilated again and again by short-term electioneering.

The statement, read by Wang Jung-chang, secretary-general of the League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled, accused the two main political camps of distorting social welfare by using handouts instead of an institutionalized social-insurance net.

The alliance declared that its first campaign will focus on pressing for passage in the next legislative session, which begins September 6, of measures to enhance tax equity, broaden the base of fiscal resources and build an institutionalized social insurance and security system.

Wang added that the participating social movement groups had chosen lavender as their official color both to distinguish the alliance from the pan-green and pan-blue camps and because lavender is associated worldwide with disadvantaged groups.

The original goal of political democratization should be to improve the life of the people, said AFJ general convener and Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan executive director Chien Hsi-chieh, who stated that the pan-green and pan-blue camps should bring the focus of the presidential campaign on the construction of an institutionalized social security system.

Chien said the lavender alliance was a new civic movement and a new social movement that will join with the people in society to promote changes in election culture and press governing and opposition parties to act responsibly in the Legislature.

In our initial phase, we will take advantage of the last legislative session before the March direct presidential election to push for an institutionalized social insurance system, said Chien.

The AFJ will call for higher taxes on the affluent and capital gains taxes to ease the tax burden on wage and salary earners and raise the annual national gross tax burden from the current 12.5 percent to back to 18 percent, about the level the ratio was in the early 1990s.

The coalition also presses for the prompt passage of an universal national citizen pension system and the extension of the coverage ratio of social and financial assistance for disadvantaged groups to be expanded from the present 0.75 percent of Taiwan’s population to three percent.

Contrary to some local media reports, AFJ spokesman and National Teachers’ Association Executive Director Wu Chung-tai emphatically stated that the alliance had not discussed nominating candidates in the presidential poll to run against President Chen Shui-bian, but did not entirely exclude the possibility.

All future actions will be discussed by the members of the alliance and based on resolutions passed by them, said Wu, who added that there is no way to respond to questions about the future.

The initial reactions of the two main camps ranged from friendly support to a cautious hope for future cooperation.

KMT lawmaker Tseng Yung-chuan told the Central News Agency that the formation of the alliance of social welfare groups was a positive development and that he expected a positive interaction with the pan-blue camp. There are opportunities for cooperation on public policies, Tseng said.

DPP legislative whip Chen Chi-mai said the concepts and advocacies of the AFJ were similar to the parliamentary agenda and program of the governing party and that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party would consider the lavender alliance as friends and comrades.

Chien, a former two-term DPP at-large legislator and a long-time labor and social movement activist, said the formation of the alliance is not directed at the DPP or KMT but is an autonomous third force to promote social reform and deepen the content of our democracy.

Chien said the ultra-right-wing position of the KMT-PFP alliance and the right-ward drift of the DPP left considerable room in Taiwan for a center-left or social democratic political force in Taiwan focused on issues of social fairness, equity and justice and basic social security and participatory democracy.

But Chien added that any questions of the evolution of the alliance into a political party were premature and urged the media to let the alliance develop naturally.

Nine social and civic movement organizations were listed as the initiators of the alliance. The Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions will also officially join the alliance soon as its board of directors is expected to give final approval for its affiliation later this month.