Tsai highlights targets for judicial reform


President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday outlined the key areas of focus for judicial reform, including increasing courtroom transparency, improving the selection and discipline of judges and prosecutors, bolstering judicial neutrality and professionalism, and establishing “trials with civic participation.”

Tsai made the comments at the sixth general meeting of the preparatory committee for the National Congress on Judicial Reform held at the Presidential Office, calling the items necessary to meet the public’s expectations.

“The courtroom must become more transparent by various means, including issuing verdicts that are comprehensible to the average person. The process for selecting competent judges and prosecutors and for weeding out incompetent ones must be improved. The professionalism and political neutrality of the judiciary must be bolstered. A system for civic participation in trials must be instituted,” Tsai said.

She also instructed agencies to make detailed proposals and set a clear timetable for their implementation.

The committee has worked hard over 40 sessions since November last year to create an agenda that comprises the most important items, Tsai said.

As legal reform must be based on popular support, the proposals must be described in comprehensible language, she said.

The reforms would be unsuccessful if they are not communicated to the public, regardless of their professional merits, Tsai said.

Civic participation in trials — which is largely supported by the public — is a priority, committee deputy executive secretary Lin Feng-jeng (林?正) told a news conference after the meeting.

The Judicial Yuan is drafting a trial system that is suitable for the nation and would make “citizen judges” a reality as soon as possible, he said.

Courtroom transparency is also to be improved by, for example, writing legal documents and reference books in modern, accessible Chinese, he said.

The training and selection of judges, prosecutors and lawyers would be streamlined by implementing a single bar examination instead of holding separate certification exams for each, Lin said.

Practical knowledge is to be emphasized in the education of judges and prosecutors, he added.

Other focuses include opening prosecutorial appointments and administrations to democratic oversight, making the court structure less top-heavy, establishing specialized courts for cases that require professional knowledge and procedural changes for the Council of Grand Justices, he said.

A stronger oversight system and ridding subpar officers is needed to restore public confidence, and review procedures should be made more effective, he said.

The committee is determined to protect the rights of the disadvantaged and has established several directives to do so, such as improving evidentiary laws, making recourse better available to the wrongfully convicted, creating protections for minors’ privacy and the rights of the disadvantaged, and implementing restorative justice, Lin said.

The committee is scheduled to hold a live-streamed general meeting at the Presidential Office on Aug. 12 to summarize its conclusions, and is to publish documents beforehand, he said.


Cabinet unveils infrastructure budget

The Cabinet yesterday proposed a NT$108.9 billion (US$3.56 billion) budget for the first part of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program.

The budget is to fund eight categories of projects over four years.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$35.4 billion for urban and rural development projects.

This includes NT$12.2 billion to improve road quality, NT$6.15 billion to develop industrial parks, NT$4.38 billion to build long-term care facilities and repair unsafe public buildings, NT$3.6 billion to build sports and recreational facilities and NT$1.45 billion to develop Hakka and Aboriginal communities.

In addition, NT$25.67 billion has been earmarked for water infrastructure: NT$14.37 billion for the construction of an artificial lake, catchment area conservation, reservoir dredging and water supply system upgrade; NT$5.3 billion for regional river management; and NT$6 billion for water resource management and conservation.

Railway projects, which account for nearly half of the total budget, have received NT$17.06 billion at this stage, as many projects have yet to undergo feasibility assessments and planning, but the railway budget would increase significantly when most projects enter construction phase, the Executive Yuan said.

About NT$6.9 billion would be spent on the electrification of railways connecting Taitung and Pingtung counties and NT$2.97 billion on the construction of an underground railway in Tainan, while a budget of NT$569 million is proposed to improve connectivity between regular and high-speed railways.

The Cabinet has allocated NT$8.12 billion to develop “green” energy infrastructure and a science park in Tainan, and NT$16.17 billion to build cloud servers and improve Internet facilities in schools and remote areas.

To recognize the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) suggestions, NT$2 billion, NT$300 million and NT$4.2 billion have been earmarked to address the issues of low birth rate, food safety and talent cultivation respectively.

Projects with smaller budgets can be supplemented with funds from regular annual budgets, Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said.

For example, although the Cabinet has proposed NT$2 billion to address low fertility rates, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has already allocated NT$6.85 billion to improve childcare services and the Ministry of Education has budgeted NT$6 billion to increase the number of public kindergartens by 1,000, Hsu said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has allocated a three-year budget of NT$11.43 billion to cultivate talent from last year to next year, Hsu added.

The Cabinet is to officially present the budget to the legislature today.

KMT caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) said the caucus would plan its review strategy after the Cabinet submits its proposal, adding that the party would prioritize the review of railway projects.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) urged the KMT to exercise restraint during the review, as the budget allocations do not favor DPP-ruled cities and counties as the KMT has claimed, but focus on the development of railroads in eastern Taiwan.

“The KMT would need to justify itself if it tries to boycott the budget review. Must the party insist on the previous KMT administration’s policies that ignored the development of eastern Taiwan?” Wu said.