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Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Plebiscite urged on fourth nuke plant

PEOPLE POWER Opponents to the proposed plebiscite on the nuclear plant say the move could provide a precedent for a popular vote on Taiwan independence

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators across party lines yesterday urged the Legislative Yuan to pass the long-delayed Plebiscite Bill as soon as possible to allow the controversy over the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to be decided by a direct vote.

Seeking a solution on how the power plant construction could be halted, some DPP and KMT legislators, as well as one independent lawmaker, said the fate of the US$5.6 billion project would be best decided by popular vote.

DPP legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), supported this position by saying neither slogans nor political wrestling should resolve the nuclear energy controversy.

"The most peaceful and fairest solution is to put the fate of the construction project into plebiscite," Chai said.

Chai was backed up by KMT legislator Jao Yung-ching (趙永清), independent lawmaker Liao Hsueh-kuang (廖學廣), as well as DPP caucus whip Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清).

Liao said the passage of the draft bill would allow the public to have a direct say on controversial issues of national importance -- such as the nuclear power plant -- as well as the future status of Taiwan.

Until recently, the Plebiscite Bill had been kept on ice in the legislature since it passed its first reading in 1994, but now legislators are looking at it with renewed interest.

Plans for the construction of the plant and opposition to it date back more than a decade, during which time disputes and protests between environmental and political groups and the government have raged nearly non-stop.

But the fate of the project in Kungliao township, Taipei County, has been in the balance since Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- who pledged during his election campaign to stop all future nuclear power projects -- won the presidential election.

Cheng also clarified the misgivings opponents to the draft had, such as concern that the draft bill, once passed, could become a DPP tool to forward its pro-independence stance.

"We hope to use this opportunity to allow the plebiscite draft bill to become a nonpartisan legal tool, which would no longer be considered as the measure to resolve the reunification versus independence controversy," Cheng said.

DPP party guidelines state the party's pro-independence stance, but stipulates that any changes to the status quo in relations with China should be decided by plebiscite.

But the joint opposition by New Party (NP) and KMT legislators, was what prevented action on the draft bill in the legislature during the past six years, Chai said.

"NP legislators are opposed to the draft bill, saying the plebiscite is tantamount to declaring Taiwan's independence. Since they were against Taiwan independence, they were against the draft. This is a sheer misunderstanding," Chai said.

"The Plebiscite Law not only can allow the public to decide the fate of Taiwan, but also other issues such as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project," he said.

He also predicted that the relaxed stances by some KMT legislators toward the draft proposal as well as the likely support from the People First Party could relieve some obstacles to the draft bill.

Meanwhile, a non-legally-binding proposal -- co-signed by 43 legislators -- urging the executive branch to halt the construction project temporarily, failed to pass the regular legislative plenary session yesterday afternoon.

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