Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday turned down a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposal for a special statute that would pave the way for a national referendum on the completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant after discussing the matter with DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
It is not possible for the Cabinet to issue an executive order halting the construction of the plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), Jiang told a joint press conference he held with Su following their 90-minute meeting at the Executive Yuan complex in Taipei.
Jiang said the executive branch could not take a unilateral decision to resolve the decades-long controversy, given that an executive order to halt the project issued by the then-DPP administration in 2000 had been ruled unconstitutional.
“Besides, this administration has always supported completing construction of the plant so it can become operational,” he said.
The DPP’s proposal called for changing the national referendum threshold to a simple majority from the current regulations, which require the participation of 50 percent of eligible voters, half of whom must cast a “yes” ballot for the referendum to pass.
Jiang said that while he has always supported resolving the controversy via popular vote, “lowering the national referendum threshold over a highly contentious issue would be inappropriate.”
The proposed special statute also sought to phrase the nuclear referendum question in clear terms by simply asking voters whether they support or oppose the plant’s construction and for the plebiscite to be held by the end of the year.
The initiative was unveiled last week as part of the DPP’s effort to support the demand made by former party chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) to halt the Gongliao project.
A prolific anti-nuclear advocate, Lin is to begin an indefinite hunger strike today in a bid to force the government to heed his call.
Jiang yesterday reiterated his position on Lin’s planned fast, saying that the news of the hunger strike had shocked and saddened him.
“I urge Mr Lin to not sacrifice his body for a political demand,” the premier said, adding that he did not rule out visiting the former DPP head to discuss the situation.
At the press conference, Su said he initiated the meeting to engage Jiang in “problem-solving,” which the DPP chair said entailed the government resolving the controversy as soon as possible and taking Lin’s hunger strike seriously.
“I’m not here to debate who did what in the past, nor am I here to argue with someone about the responsibilities of the administrative and legislative branches, because this have always been clear,” Su said.
“I am here today to work out a solution for the 30-year-old controversy over the Gongliao plant. Considering the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdown in Japan, the anti-nuclear stance held by the majority of Taiwanese and Lin Yi-xiong’s sacrificing his body as a last warning, I think the answer to this problem should be very clear,” he added.
If President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration adopts a positive mentality toward resolving the issue, Su said he would not rule out meeting with the president and added that his party is open to negotiating with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) about the details or revisions of the proposed statute.
“There is no time to waste. The DPP is willing to do whatever it takes to resolve the issue. Hopefully, the nuclear power plant will become the first issue on which the two parties can achieve conciliation and cooperation,” he said.
Separately yesterday, Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said Jiang’s pledge that the government would not place fuel rods in the Gongliao station’s reactors before a referendum is held does not mean that the plant’s going online will be postponed indefinitely if a vote does not transpire.
If the legislature does not decide to put the issue to a popular vote, the plant could become operational, but only once the safety of the nuclear reactors is guaranteed, Sun said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan
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