Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Referendum rejigs to get hearing


The pan-blue camp's amended version of the Referendum Law (公民投票法), which puts more restrictions on initiating a defensive referendum, will get its first reading in the Legislative Yuan tomorrow.

The new version would require an emergency order and approval from the legislature before a defensive referendum could be called.

"The amendment will not be passed by the legislature before the election due to a four-month-long cross-party negotiation. But the proposal aims to remind the public that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) holding of an illegal referendum is not compatible with the intention the law was based on," KMT policy convener Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said.

The DPP caucus threatened to block the amendment in the upcoming cross-party negotiation.

"The pan-blue's proposal cannot obstruct the March 20 referendum," DPP caucus leader Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said. "The pan-blue camp is trying to prevent the public from exercising their right to a referendum. If the pan-blue camp tried to push the proposal through, the pan-green camp would oppose it to the end."

The pan-blue camp's amendment for Article 17, which demands that holding a defensive referendum will require an emergency order and approval by the Legislative Yuan, was passed by the legislature's Procedure Committee on Tuesday.

However, the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) proposal to eliminate the Referendum Review Committee (公投審議委員會) was rejected. Both TSU and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators in the Procedure Committee withdrew from the session in protest.

The Referendum Law passed only two months ago but because all parties were unsatisfied with the articles in the law, the KMT, TSU and DPP have each proposed an amended version.

The KMT's amendment tried to give the legislature more power to control the initiation of a defensive referendum, and the proposal ties up the defensive referendum with the president's right to issue an emergent order -- if the country is under external threat which may rattle the country's sovereignty, the president can issue an emergency order to hold a referendum, but the order needs to be endorsed by the Legislative Yuan within 10 days. If the legislature does not agree to the order, it would be nullified.

Meanwhile, the pan-green camp aims to give the Executive Yuan the right to initiate a referendum and to allow the public to decide on a new constitution by referendum.

After the committee passed the pan-blue's version, Tseng said that the proposal aimed to remind the public that the referendum on March. 20 was illegal.

The Executive Yuan also attacked the pan-blue camp's amended version saying an emergency order would restrict the people's right.

"Article 17 bestows the president with the right to hold a defensive referendum to prevent a crisis from happening," Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said. "However, things like an emergency order or right to announce martial law mean that the country has gone into a military or economic crisis. They are different systems.

"So it is very confusing that the pan-blue legislators are trying to amend the Referendum Law so that when the president wants to initiate a defensive referendum he needs to issue an emergency order," he said. "Plus, Article 17 only says that `if the country is likely to suffer from an external threat,' and it does not mean that the country is being invaded. So the president has some space for his own judgment."

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