DPP to propose referendum law change

SAFEGUARDS::The proposal would grant the Executive Yuan the authority to hold a referendum on cross-strait negotiations and require plebiscites before and after all talks

By Chris Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporters

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - Page 1

The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday said it would submit a proposal to amend the Referendum Act (公民投票法) that would require all political negotiations with China to be put to a national referendum.

The caucus’ draft amendment proposes granting the Executive Yuan the authority to hold a referendum on negotiations between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) told a press conference.

A legally binding national referendum would also be required before and after all negotiations to ensure the government has a public mandate to engage in bilateral talks and that the results do not jeopardize Taiwan’s national interests, Ker said.

The DPP called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) not to block the proposal in the legislature’s Procedure Committee, as the KMT caucus has threatened.

KMT caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said the party opposed revising the rules.

Chao said the DPP proposal was “unnecessary” given that the ability to initiate a national plebiscite on a major policy or to put a major policy to a referendum was already within the scope of the Referendum Act.

Paragraph 3 of Article 2 of the act stipulates that the “initiative of referendum of important policies” is one of the matters to which the act already applies, she said.

The KMT will block the DPP’s proposal by preventing it from clearing the Procedure Committee, she said.

“We simply must block the DPP’s proposal,” she said.

Chao said some amendments to the act previously put forward by the DPP suggested bringing the threshold for a national referendum down to 2.12 million signatures.

“If those proposals pass the legislature, a minority of people would be able to stage a referendum, which is why the KMT has stalled the DPP’s amendments,” Chao said.

The blocking of the proposal by the KMT would show that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) pledge to hold a referendum before proceeding with talks with China on a peace accord was an empty promise and a tool to win votes, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said the KMT should “sit down with the DPP” to collaboratively and substantially establish a sound and complete mechanism for referendums.

Tsai, the DPP’s presidential candidate, accused Ma of “recklessness and inconsistency” in mentioning a peace accord with China within a decade, adding that the idea could put Taiwan’s sovereignty and democratic values at risk and leave future generations with no freedom of choice.

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has also questioned the objectives and motives behind Ma’s proposal and said he agreed the Referendum Act should be amended.

Taiwan announced the cessation of hostilities with China in 1991, when the “Period of Mobilization for the Suppression of Communist Rebellion” was terminated, Lee said, adding that the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) was passed the following year and has since been the law governing cross-strait engagement, so there was no need for a peace agreement.

However, even China is against the proposal and, given the high threshold regulated by the law, it would be very difficult to pass any referendum in Taiwan, he said.

Liu Chien-sin (劉建忻), deputy director of policy research for the DPP, said the party wants to make sure cross-strait talks are not dictated by one person or one political party.

The amendment would put clear regulations in law and reaffirm that all cross-strait engagements be conducted through a democratic process, he said.

Meanwhile, the DPP asked for clarification regarding Ma’s alleged dispatch of “secret emissary” Kao Huei (高輝), director of the KMT’s Mainland Affairs Department, to China at the weekend.

The DPP asked whether Kao had met senior Chinese officials during meetings on Friday and Saturday, and whether he had told Beijing the initiative was only a campaign tactic and that no referendum would be held in the future, DPP spokesperson Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) told a press conference.

The KMT on Sunday denied Kao had been sent to China to discuss those matters.

Liang also said Kao must answer whether the KMT has promised to engage in negotiations for a peace agreement under the spirit of the Guidelines for National Unification, which was written by the National Unification Council.