Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet thinks twice about overturning `birdcage' law

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet might not overturn the Referendum Law (公民投票法), despite labeling it a "birdcage," Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shi-fang (劉世芳) said yesterday.

"While we're inclined not to propose a motion to overturn the legislation, we don't expect to reach a final decision until Monday when the premier discusses the matter with the president and the party," Liu said. "We thought it was a better idea to let the public see for themselves just how infeasible and ridiculous this piece of legislation is."

Liu said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government will continue to push its referendum campaign.

"We've been committed to enact the referendum law over the years, but it seems that it's the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and People First Party [PFP] who get all the credit for enacting the referendum law," she said.

Disappointed by the outcome of the referendum legislation passed on Thursday, the Cabinet had threatened to overturn the law.

The DPP legislative caucus vowed to request a constitutional interpretation on the legislation from the Council of Grand Justices as well as mounting a national referendum to vote on the new law.

Political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝) said that the Cabinet's change of heart had a lot to do with the DPP's adverse position in the legislature.

"It cannot afford to lose again if it seeks to overturn the referendum legislation in the legislature, where it does not enjoy the majority," Hu said.

The Constitution mandates that more than half of the legislature is required to endorse or reject the Cabinet's veto motion.

Commenting on the pledge made by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday to hold a referendum in conjunction with next March's election, Hu said that it is possible for Chen to initiate the referendum as a "defensive" one.

"I expect Beijing to react drastically if the rally organized on Feb. 28 next year to vote on the nation's name and a new constitution irritates China," Hu said.

The Referendum Law empowers the president to initiate a "defensive referendum" to change the country's sovereignty when the country faces external threats to its security.

Opposition parties yesterday were divided over Liu's remark. The KMT and PFP praised it as a "smart decision," while the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) urged the DPP to reconsider.

KMT caucus whip Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) said that it would be a "smart decision" if the Cabinet decided not to overturn the law.

"We'll totally respect the decision made by the Cabinet, because, after all, we've done our part in the legislature and the rest is up to the president and the premier," he said.

Lee said Chen and the premier would have to be held responsible for the consequences if the Cabinet decided to try to overturn the law.

"To safeguard the interest of the people, we'll do whatever it takes to veto the Cabinet's request in the legislature," Lee said. "The premier has to step down to shoulder the political responsibility once his request is rejected."

PFP spokesman Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said that it is time to put an end to the referendum issue and resume dialogue on unemployment and the economy.

"It meets the people's expectation if the Cabinet decides not to overturn the legislation," he said. "I believe it [the DPP] has finally realized that the public might see the Cabinet's move to overturn the legislation as a political maneuver."

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