Wed, Feb 27, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Civic groups criticize Referendum Act and Cabinet

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Lawyer Thomas Chan, center, displays a placard that reads: “Stop the budget for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant” outside the legislature in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP

Civic groups yesterday criticized the high threshold required by the Referendum Act (公民投票法) and accused the Cabinet of trying to escape its responsibilities by putting the completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to a referendum.

Responding to the Cabinet’s announcement on Monday, civic groups led by the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA) and Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan (CET), held a demonstration in front of the legislature yesterday, urging political parties not to make the issue a political struggle and the Cabinet to take responsibility and stop the project.

“An unsafe nuclear power plant will not become a safe one through a referendum,” the groups said.

Thomas Chan (詹順貴), an attorney who has worked closely with environmental groups, said the referendum would be a “false referendum” because the law requires more than 50 percent of eligible voters to vote for the result of a referendum to be valid, making the initiative to “stop the plant’s construction” hard to pass as it would require at least 4.5 million votes.

CET representative Yang Chun-lang (楊俊朗) said a referendum would not prevent nuclear disasters from happening, adding that after the many scandals during the construction of the power plant, the government should take responsibility, stop the project and reject any additional budget, rather than handing responsibility to voters.

GCAA chairperson Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑) said the government should stop threatening the public with slower economic development and higher electricity prices and apologize for spending so much taxpayers’ money on the project.

GCAA secretary-general Tsuei Su-hsin (崔愫欣) urged the public to protest against nuclear power at a national parade on March 9.

However, the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) held a press conference to express its positive attitude toward the government’s decision, but also stressed that the law should be amended.

“The Referendum Act has many flaws,” TEPU founder and chairman Shih Hsin-min (施信民) said.

Shih said the high threshold should be amended and he suggested that the initiative should be a “positive discourse” asking “should the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant construction project be continued” — meaning it would need the approval of 50 percent of eligible voters for construction to be continued — rather than the negative discourse Jiang mentioned on Monday.

“Also, both sides of the issue should get fair resources to advocate their position to the public before the referendum takes place,” he said, adding that another way to deal with the issue would be to pass an amendment to the Nuclear Reactor Facilities Regulation Act (核子反應器設施管制法) allowing residents living within a 50km radius of a nuclear power plant to decide its fate via a local referendum.

Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉), TEPU academic committee convener and a professor of atmospheric sciences at National Taiwan University, criticized the Cabinet for “instructing” lawmakers to act according to its will and stigmatizing anti-nuclear groups as “irrational” and “selfish” for “sacrificing cheaper electricity and economic development.”

The group said it would organize an anti-nuclear protest in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Jinshan District (金山) on Sunday.

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