KMT vows to pass referendum proposal

DPP BOYCOTT::About 40 DPP lawmakers have locked themselves inside the legislative chamber in a bid to prevent the speaker from opening today’s session

By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Chris Wang, Tang Chia-ling and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Fri, Aug 02, 2013 - Page 1

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday said it would push through the proposed referendum it initiated on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in a vote scheduled for today, but the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said it would do whatever it takes to block the proposal.

If the proposal passes, a national plebiscite would be have to be held within six months on the question: “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)?

In order to boycott the vote, DPP lawmakers late yesterday afternoon chained and locked the door to the legislative chamber from inside in a bid to prevent Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) from entering to open today’s session.

At about 5pm, some DPP lawmakers asked legislative staff to let them into the chamber to retrieve belonging they had left there. The chamber had been closed because there was no plenary session yesterday. About 40 legislators ended up inside the chamber and planned to stay overnight.

They were supplied with electric fans, sleeping bags, water and food by legislative assistants.

“We are just happy to sleep on the floor,” DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said.

DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) urged supporters to join a protest against the proposal planned for today outside the Legislative Yuan compound.

“The fight has begun. We willnever let a vote on the proposed referendum be called,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) issued a press release urging the public to support efforts to block the referendum proposal and for the DPP to make an all-out effort to safeguard the core party value of a nuclear-free nation.

A nuclear-free homeland is listed as a national goal in the Basic Environment Act (環境基本法), but President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is trying to take advantage of the high threshold required for a national referendum to manipulate the result, she said.

“The Ma administration’s manipulation aims to deceive the people and is an insult to Taiwan’s democracy,” Tsai said.

Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), chief secretary of the DPP caucus, said the caucus would do whatever it takes to block the referendum proposal and it expected “an intense war” today in the legislature.

“The DPP believes the plant should not be built without a complete safety assessment and a national referendum is unnecessary,” Gao said.

More than 70 percent of the respondents in recent surveys about the plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) opposed the construction of the plant, DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said, so the government should listen to public and suspend construction.

Calling for the legislature to completely halt work on the plant, a number of civic groups, including the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), the Humanistic Education Foundation, the Taiwan Association of University Professors and the Green Citizen Action Alliance, said they plan to stage a sit-in in front of the legislature today.

“The construction has been plagued with a series of legal cases, which has led to doubts about the quality of the final product. Commercial operation of the plant would threaten the life and property of Taiwanese and endanger the island’s sustainable development,” TEPU’s anti-nuclear convener Kao Cheng-yan (高成炎) said.

“Since the option to completely halt construction of the nuclear power plant has received the support of the majority of the Taiwanese public, the Legislative Yuan — as the highest ranking governmental unit representing the will of the people — should do its job and immediately pass a resolution to halt the construction of the plant,” Kao said.

The legislature could avoid wasting manpower and national resources on a national referendum by such a vote, he said.

If the KMT will not back down on pushing the proposed referendum, it should at least provide a report on the quality of construction to prove the plant is worth the investment needed to finish it, and it should amend the Referendum Act (公民投票法) to lower the threshold for referendum votes to better reflect the will of the people, Kao said.

“If neither of these demands are met, then the referendum is simply a political ploy to support the continued construction of the plant and the KMT is taking the people for fools,” he said.

However, KMT lawmakers were warned in a meeting on Wednesday evening that they risked being fined and punished by the party if they did not vote in support of the proposal. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in his role as KMT chairman, and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) attended the meeting.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said earlier this week that the party should consider pushing the referendum through the extra session if the government promises that ongoing safety tests at the plant can be completed in six months.

Wu had won support from more than 50 KMT lawmakers for the idea, but his colleagues backtracked after Wednesday’s meeting.

KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said Wu’s suggestion would be incorporated into the proposed referendum in a form of a supplementary resolution stating that fuel rods could only be loaded into reactors and the plant go into operation after permission is granted by the Atomic Energy Commission.

At a press conference at the KMT caucus office, Wu Yu-jen (吳玉珍), who leads the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ office in charge of the plant project, yesterday said the government will continue rigorous testing at the plant to ensure its safe operation regardless of when a referendum on the plant’s future is held.

“We can promise that the ministry will never conduct safety tests on the power plant in haste, whether the referendum is held or not,” she said.

Atomic Energy Council Deputy Minister Chou Yuan-ching (周源卿) dismissed concerns that the council’s inspectors are inexperienced and could not ensure the safe operation of a nuclear power plant.

Lin Tsung-yao (林宗堯), a former member of the commission’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Safety Monitoring Committee, wrote a paper listing what he said were a number of safety issues that have plagued the nuclear power plant and could lead to the facility failing to meet required safety standards.

Wu said the ministry received a copy of Lin’s paper on Wednesday night and the suggestions he made in the paper would be factored into the ministry’s specific safety review for the plant.