More opposition lawmakers yesterday joined several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers in criticizing the question proposed by the KMT for a referendum to determine the fate of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮).
However, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said the wording of the question in the proposal was “excellent” and in accordance with the Referendum Act (公民投票法).
If the KMT proposal is approved by the legislature, the public will be asked in a referendum: “Do you agree that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and that it not become operational?” (你是否同意核四廠停止興建不得運轉)
Since the government proposed holding a referendum to ask the public if they support halting the construction of the power plant, the idea has been blasted as a “trick” to thwart a growing anti-nuclear power sentiment, because the government would otherwise have asked the public if they support building the facility because it is the government’s policy.
After the KMT proposal was unveiled on Thursday, more doubts over the legitimacy of the referendum initiative emerged, mainly over two issues allegedly being addressed in the same referendum question.
During a question-and-answer session at the legislature yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the way the question was phrased was in violation of Article 9 of the Referendum Act, because it asked people to decide on two issues.
The article states that a proposal for a referendum must be raised about one issue only.
“Whether to halt the construction is one issue, and whether the power plant can become operational is another. You can’t mix the two matters together in one question,” Kuan said.
Disagreeing with Kuan, Jiang said: “I do not think they are two different things.”
Kuan said that Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) has attested to her critique of the KMT proposal in his earlier reply to Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲), when he was asked by Huang how he would vote in the plebiscite.
In answering Huang’s question, Tsai said that “there were two issues in the question: Whether I support that the plant’s construction be halted and whether I support that the plant not be operated.”
In his defense, Tsai yesterday said the referendum proposal appeared to him like a question containing two issues because he, as head of the AEC, is responsible for a decision to allow the power plant to become operational or not.
When asked by Huang, Jiang said that the KMT’s referendum proposal was “excellent” and that the referendum question was “in plain language.”
Jiang dismissed criticism that the referendum proposal was a “trick” to complete construction of the power plant and for it to become operational.
“The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is a facility under construction. If a referendum is to be held to decide whether an ongoing policy should be overridden, people are therefore asked a negative question. This is the practice used by most countries when a referendum is initiated on an existing law or a policy which is being implemented,” Jiang said.
People First Party legislative caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) called on the KMT to give up the proposal “if the KMT is really sincere in resolving the issues regarding the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant through a referendum.”
Lee said his party does not support the KMT’s proposal. The text of a referendum proposal should be jointly decided upon by all four parties in the legislature, he added.
KMT lawmakers Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) and Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) on Thursday both expressed discontent with the proposal.
They said that the way the question was phrased made it appear more like a proposal calling for the construction to be completed than to be halted.