Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 1 News List

TSU lawmaker helps first referendum reading pass

LEGAL CONFUSION Opposition legislators say that by ignoring a call for a second vote, the reading only passed because the convener used an illegal procedure

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP Legislator Chang Shiow-jen, right, and others hold a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday to call on the Executive Yuan to change the nation's name at the WTO to ``Taiwan.'' Chang also called for a public referendum law to determine the country's status.

PHOTO: SHIH CHI-HUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed its first reading of a referendum draft bill amid rumors that opposition lawmakers tried to alter the conclusion by procedurally marking the meeting "invalid."

"The Home and Nations Committee undoubtedly finalized the referendum bill's first reading today," said TSU Legislator Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) who hosted yesterday's review.

As the convener, Chen declared the first reading of the referendum draft through a vote following opposition members' request of dissolving the meeting yesterday.

"I announced the first reading since no conferees voiced an objection after the vote and none of them argued that the review should not move forward to the next round."

Chen gave his explanation at a press conference after the meeting was adjourned.

The approval means that legislative members of the pan-blue and the pan-green alliances will hold their next-phase confrontation on the referendum legislation in the legislative assembly while the bill awaits a second reading after yesterday's progress.

The TSU caucus members however said they learned from legislative personnel that certain opposition lawmakers were trying to alter the result by marking yesterday's agenda as invalid.

Chen, the committee convener, urged the opposition lawmakers to voice their argument when the draft bill is reviewed at the legislative assembly.

The referendum law, proposed by DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮), raised strong opposition from the pan-blue lawmakers whose pro-unification members believe that the DPP administration will exploit the referendum's legitimacy to fulfill the task of attaining Taiwan's independence, which was commonly seen as a primary goal of the ruling party.

In an effort to move forward yesterday's legislative review, Chai had agreed to remove sensitive wording in the draft stipulating that the electorate would be bestowed with the right to decide whether the country should change its national flag or the name of the nation.

The opposition lawmakers voiced their suspicion about the pan-green camp's motives in promoting the bill when yesterday's review started with lawmakers' speeches.

"The pan-green camp should stop using the referendum issue as a tactic," said PFP whip Chiu Yi (邱毅).

"The key debate is not about whether Taiwan should formulate a referendum law but whether the country could achieve better economic prosperity than China so that Beijing will hesitate before it bars the country from international organizations like the World Health Organization," Chiu said.

The TSU caucus whip Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) praised Chen's political savvy for achieving the first reading.

"Chen achieved the task of advancing the draft bill by exercising his legislative power as a convener. The primary approval of the referendum bill signified progress for our goal to complete a legal formulation for a citizens' referendum," Chien Lin said.

But the KMT and PFP denied the legality of the approval.

"The TSU convener's ignorance of KMT lawmakers' demand for a second vote and the proclamation of the first reading violated legislative procedural law," said KMT caucus whip Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻).

Liu went on to say that the convener declared an adjournment of the meeting "only based on his own willfullness."

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