In an unexpected move, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) yesterday announced that he would withdraw his proposal to determine the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) via a national referendum.
In a short text message, he said it would be “inappropriate” to push forward with the poll at this time.
There has been enormous political upheaval recently and if the referendum were held, it would cause chaos in the legislature, Lee said.
“Considering the current state of relations between the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan and the legislature, now would be an extremely inappropriate time to deliberate the issue,” Lee said.
More importantly, the Executive Yuan has said that it will not be able to complete all the necessary safety tests to ensure the plant’s safe operation before the proposed date of the plebiscite, Lee added.
The legislator said that an issue like the nuclear plant that is vitally important to the nation and its people should be discussed only when the government, the legislature and the public are willing to do so.
The referendum question proposed by Lee and other KMT legislators was: “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)?”
The proposed question failed to pass the legislature.
As of press time, Lee could not be reached to comment on whether he consulted with the government or the KMT before withdrawing the proposal or had made the decision of his own accord.
Lee made the proposal in March, after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) in February decided to put the issue of whether to finish building the plant to a vote soon after Jiang took up the premiership.
Both Ma and Jiang have repeatedly said the issue must be resolved “once and for all” as “it has troubled us for more than 20 years.”
Over the past six months, the proposal has been the cause of scuffles among lawmakers during various plenary sessions because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan Solidarity Union and the People First Party all oppose it.
The opposition has said that the proposal amounted to “game-fixing” to ensure that the construction of the plant would continue because of the way the question was phrased and the high referendum threshold.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said that the Executive Yuan would instruct Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia- juch (張家祝) to ask Lee to reconsider the withdrawal, adding that the Cabinet’s position on the referendum remains unchanged.
Meanwhile, the DPP caucus praised Lee’s action and lauded his “good conscience” regarding the “bad timing” of the plebisicite.
Amid speculation that Ma will remove Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) over Wang’s alleged involvement in an influence peddling case, it seems that the president was aiming to push the nuclear referendum forcibly through the legislature, DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.
With the withdrawal, Lee was “firing the first shot” at Ma over his unconstitutional, unpopular policies and actions, Ker said.
The withdrawal could also be seen as a vote of no-confidence by KMT lawmakers against Jiang, who endorsed the proposal, Ker added.
“The referendum proposal was fraudulent in the first place,” DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said, adding that the initiative was proposed as a tactic to undermine mainstream public opinion, which opposed the construction.
The DPP urged Ma to immediately suspend the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant because more than 70 percent of the public oppose its completion and future operation, Wang said.
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who is collecting signatures to hold a local referendum to stop the installation of fuel rods at the plant, also praised Lee’s move.