Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Referendum on nuclear power is a battlefield

By Chen Jun-kuang 陳俊光

Recently A letter to a local newspaper warned the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) not to turn the proposed referendum on construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), into a protest against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), or a distasteful confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

Some people in the arts and cultural sectors have said politicians are terrifying because they harvest the fruits of others’ efforts, and the dispute over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is the result of vicious struggles between the two main political camps. Many members of social movements say the anti-nuclear campaign is their battlefield, and others should keep out of it.

Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) and the pan-green camp have done far more than many. Since 1996, it proposed that no nuclear power plants should be built in Taiwan and have repeatedly blocked nuclear-related budgets in the legislature.

Although the pan-green camp has never blamed anyone for harvesting the fruits of its hard work, or for taking over its battlefield, it is still being attacked for doing just that by those who have joined the anti-nuclear campaign at a later stage. This is laughable.

Moreover, some pan-blue politicians and their supporters joined the anti-nuclear movement later still, and have contributed little. They have been hogging the spotlight, yet none of the morally elevated social activists ever criticize them for taking the credit for other people’s work. Why is that?

Anti-nuclear campaigners are only able to voice their opposition to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s policy in public thanks to the efforts of the pro-democracy movement’s fight for freedom of expression.

So, who is harvesting the fruit of others’ hard work?

The nation’s anti-nuclear movement is closely connected to the opposition between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, but the movement goes beyond politics, while confrontations between the pan-blue and pan-green camps also involve issues such as national identity, democracy and human rights.

Similarly, an anti-Ma campaign would involve multiple aspects. Therefore, linking the anti-nuclear campaign with an anti-Ma campaign is an expansion, rather than a downgrading, of the campaign. Unfortunately, this expansion has offended some people who want to draw a clear line between the two issues.

The debate surrounding the construction of the plant is because the pan-blue camp, which is politically stronger than the pan-green camp, has always given the project its full support.

In 2011, the Italian parliamentary opposition launched a nuclear referendum, linking it to a vote of no confidence in the ruling party. Thanks to this tactic, the number of voters who participated exceeded the threshold.

The DPP is simply learning from Italy and its efforts to achieve a similar result should not be denied. Besides, in the face of the government’s pro-nuclear stance, the anti-nuclear camp should welcome efforts by people with a common cause who wish to find different ways of mobilizing the public.

When it comes to different discourses on the anti-nuclear issue, there is no need to reject any of them so long as they are not ill-intentioned.

It is important to halt construction of the plant, but if at the same time we cannot rid the public of their aversion toward politics and take an interest in public affairs, it could have a profound impact on the nation and its development.

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