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Fri, Feb 16, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Opposition stalls law on referendum

PLOY The KMT and other opposition parties claim the DPP is pushing for talks on a controversial plebiscite just to stoke political tensions in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant dispute

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

New Party legislator Hsieh Chi-ta gesticulates during a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday after the ruling and opposition parties reopened their negotiation channels. Hsieh had an argument with DPP caucus convener Chou Po-lun, center left, during yesterday's negotiations.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Opposition lawmakers yesterday blocked a DPP attempt to make the enactment of a referendum law a priority issue on the legislative agenda.

The opposition fears that a plan to hold a referendum during the year-end legislative race has become a DPP tactic to drag out the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) dispute.

Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who hosted yesterday's inter-party negotiations, said the opposition unanimously concluded that the law should follow due legislative process like any other, which means that substantive negotiations should be conducted before it is submitted to the legislature for final consideration.

"We are not going to single out the referendum law. All pieces of legislation get equal treatment. A bill can move on to the legislature when negotiations are complete," Wang said.

Following the Executive Yuan's announcement on Wednesday to resume the plant's construction, the opposition yesterday reopened the door to negotiations with the DPP, and the two parties held their first round of dialogue in more than three months.

The main purpose of yesterday's discussion was to arrange the agenda for the first meeting of the session on Feb. 20, when Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) will give the Cabinet's biannual policy address to the legislature. The legislature had refused to let Chang make the address last October, in protest over the Cabinet's decision to scrap the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project.

But just as the tensions between the ruling and opposition parties are calming down, the referendum law is triggering a new conflict.

Opposition legislators considered the proposal by convener of the DPP legislative caucus Chou Po-lun (周伯倫) to prioritize the referendum law as a crude attempt to secure the support of anti-nuclear voters in the year-end election.

"We don't wish to see any political party use inter-party negotiations or even the legislature as a theater to vie for the year-end elections," said Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大), convener of the New Party caucus.

A total of eight proposals for the referendum law, raised by different legislators, are now available in the legislature, some of which have finished a preliminary review. The Executive Yuan has so far not submitted any proposal to the legislature.

The opposition insisted that the referendum law should not be linked to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project, saying that otherwise political instability would continue.

"The referendum law should only apply to a public policy that has not been implemented. A project that is already underway, such as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, cannot be scrapped arbitrarily," KMT caucus whip Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金) said.

Shen Chih-Hwei (沈智慧), deputy convener of the People First Party caucus, said the DPP should stop arguing about the power plant and focus its strength on revitalizing the nation's economy and improving the unemployment situation.

"With the dispute over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant just concluded, [the DPP] is now trying other ways to ... provoke combat. We don't want to see this happen, nor do the people," Shen said.

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