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Fri, Feb 23, 2001 - Page 3 News List

DPP divided over plans for `consultative' referendum

DEAL BREAKER The ruling party is split between some who say the proposed plebescite is unwise or illegal, and those who charge an about-face would breach an earlier agreement made with the Executive Yuan

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

A proposal to hold a non-legally binding "consultative" referendum at the end of this year on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四公投) issue led to discord among DPP members yesterday.

Chou Po-lun (周伯倫), convener of the DPP caucus in the legislature, accused colleagues -- who have over the past few days openly expressed their disapproval of the idea -- of "breaching an agreement" reached during a meeting between major DPP faction leaders and the Executive Yuan on Feb. 12.

"Originally, the details of the discussion were supposed to be kept to ourselves. But because some people have breached our agreement in a bid to sink the plan, I'm forced to speak the truth," Chou said.

According to Chou, the Executive Yuan had promised during the meeting that in case the DPP failed to reach an agreement with opposition parties on the enactment of a referendum law, it would make a public announcement by Feb. 24 concerning the holding of a consultative referendum.

On Wednesday, Chou even said that the idea had been endorsed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"It was exactly because of this promise that we [the faction leaders] consented to letting the Executive Yuan sign an agreement [with opposition parties on Feb. 13] to resume work on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant," Chou said.

Anti-nuclear groups are sched-uled to hold a large-scale demonstration in Taipei tomorrow to protest against the continuation of the project and to demand a referendum to solve the dispute.

Many DPP legislators elected from Taipei County, where the plant is located, are under great pressure from their constituents -- especially as a party primary for the year-end legislative elections is currently underway.

Chou is also from Taipei County.

Accepting lawmakers' interpellation in the legislature on Tuesday, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said the Executive Yuan has not made a final decision upon whether to order a consultative referendum, but that a five-member panel that it had set up should be able to finish a feasibility study for such a referendum in three months.

Some DPP legislators from the New Tide faction and Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄), director of the DPP's Policy Committee, also disapprove of the idea of holding such a referendum. They instead demand a legally binding referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project and firmly reject demands by opposition parties that the issue should be excluded from a referendum even if a referendum law is enacted in the future.

"If we are to hold a referendum, we should make it a magnificent event. We must not disappoint the anti-nuclear activists again," Shen said.

The premier has said that in the case of a non-legally binding referendum, the result of the ballot would be insufficient to change existing policy and would be "for reference only."

Meanwhile, officials from the Presidential Office refuted Chou's claim that the president had endorsed the idea of a consultative referendum on the power plant issue.

Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪), director of the Presidential Office's Department of Public Affairs, said the Executive Yuan is still evaluating the feasibility of the referendum, and that correct procedure is being followed. Kuo said that Chen wanted to avoid controversial issues to stabilize politics and boost the nation's economic development.

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