Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 3 News List

DPP cautious on referendum law

EXPEDIENCY Despite its long history of support for a law permitting plebiscites to settle burning issues, the ruling party has said that now may not be the right time

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

A proposed referendum law, currently awaiting review in the Home and Nations Committee of the legislature, looks set to reopen an ideological fault line in the legislature.

Despite the Cabinet's intention to withhold action on the law due to its political sensitivity, the legislation's sponsor, DPP lawmaker Trong Chai (蔡同榮), is determined to push for its passage soon.

Chai said he has obtained the word of Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), another DPP lawmaker that serves as a convener on the Home and Nations Committee, to help make the bill a priority on the committee's agenda.

Chai has pushed for the law for years, but to no avail.

Although Chai proposed a similar bill during the last legislative session, it was frequently shelved due to a blockade from pro-unification parties, including the KMT, PFP and New Party.

When it has been permitted to reach the committee, the bill, which has always been linked with the DPP's pro-independence stance, was removed from the legislature's schedule, together with other bills that failed to pass committee review.

Introducing his legislation as soon as the new legislative session started, Chai proposed the bill again after successfully collecting the endorsements of 114 lawmakers, most of whom are from the DPP and TSU.

Leaders of the DPP legislative caucus and Cabinet were cautious about the timing of introducing the bill.

Wang Tuoh (王拓), chief executive of the DPP legislative caucus, said his caucus does not think that now is the right time to push for the bill, as it may trigger unnecessary mistrust and tension across the Taiwan Strait.

Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) admitted that the law is an important one, but said it is not as urgent as Chai has put it.

Lee said there are other more urgent bills -- such as those designed to implement the conclusions reached by the Economic Development Advisory Conference and those related to the downsizing of the Taiwan Provincial Government.

The DPP has long proposed resorting to referenda to resolve public-policy disputes. Most importantly, the party insists that any decision to change the status of Taiwan should be made through a plebiscite.

In light of the sensitivity of the law, the KMT and PFP yesterday maintained that the law should not apply to changes in the nation's designation, flag and territory, or it would result in severe political turmoil.

Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), acting executive-director of the KMT's Policy Committee, said that the party would set up a task force next week to react to a potential DPP move to push for the law.

Tseng said that the KMT believes the applicability of the referendum law should be limited to national and local public policy issues.

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