Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Executive Yuan pushes for referendum

WHO ENTRY ATTEMPT The Cabinet spokesman said that the government is still trying to decide if it would be better to hold a binding or non-binding referendum

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan hopes to hold a referendum on the country's entry into the World Health Organization (WHO) by next May when the World Health Assembly (WHA) holds its next annual meeting.

"Since China successfully foiled our efforts [to join the international health body] this year during the WHA annual meeting, we're setting our goal on next year," said Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).

Lin said that while the government prefers to join the organization with the name of Republic of China on Taiwan, other names such as "health entity" or any other medical or political entity are also acceptable.

Lin, however, was vague about what kind of referendum the Cabinet plans to hold.

"We can hold a non-binding referendum if there is no legal basis for hold a binding one," Lin said. "We can hold a binding referendum in accordance with the law if there is one."

The legislature's reviewing committees are still deadlocked over which types of issues could be addressed through a referendum while the Cabinet and legislative caucuses have presented several versions of the draft referendum law.

On March 28, 2001, the Cabinet approved a draft bill of the initiation and referendum law (創制複決法), which would exclude controversial issues dealing with independence or unification, national security, diplomatic issues, the budget, military affairs and social welfare policies.

The TSU and some DPP legislators have proposed that controversial issues such as the nation's identity and the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be decided by a public vote.

In an apparent change of heart, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has expressed his support for the enactment of a plebiscite law in his capacity as DPP chairman. He also asked the DPP caucus to mobilize party members to push for the passage of such a law.

Following the nation's failed bid to join the WHA, Chen on Tuesday asked government agencies and opposition parties to propose a referendum on the country's entry into the WHO.

Meanwhile, amid calls for the declaration of an emergency decree to restrain the SARS outbreak, Lin yesterday said that the Cabinet will respond quickly as the epidemic develops.

"However, I don't see the necessity of doing so at present if the SARS prevention act and the Communicable Disease Prevention Law (傳染病防治法) can be fully implemented," Lin said.

The SARS prevention act, passed by the legislature on May 2, empowers the government to requisition medical supplies and facilities.

The act also mandates a special fund totaling NT$50 billion to be used for subsidizing SARS-related medical expenses and to mitigate the economic impact on local industries.

To supervise the implementation of the laws, Lin said Cabinet officials will be dispatched to southern, central and eastern Taiwan.

While Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), co-chairman of the Cabinet's SARS prevention committee, will be stationed in Taipei, Minister without Portfolio Huang Hui-chen (黃輝珍) will take charge in the south, Minister without Portfolio Chen Chi-nan (陳其南) the east and Minister without Portfolio Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄) central Taiwan.

In related news, the Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital and Taipei Jen Chi Hospital yesterday each received a NT$1.5 million fine for concealing information about the SARS outbreak.

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