Sat, May 04, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Aborigine lawmakers make good on threat

HALTING THE SESSION Aborigine legislators took the floor yesterday to express their anger at the government for failing to remove radioactive waste from Orchid Island

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Making good on their threat, Aborigine lawmakers yesterday staged a protest on the floor of the legislature to express their wrath at the government's failure to remove nuclear waste from Orchid Island.

The protest, though halting the interpellation session for an hour and a half, drew sympathy from Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who said he would take similar measures if he were a resident of the outlying island.

"Stop lying to the Aborigines! Remove the nuclear waste," chanted eight Aborigine legislators at 9am. They urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to honor an earlier pledge to remove some 98,000 barrels of radioactive waste from Orchid Island and demanded an unambiguous plan toward that aim.

Independent lawmaker May Chin (高金素梅) revealed on the group's behalf that the state-run Taiwan Power Company is seeking to extend an agreement with the islanders that would allow the waste to stay for another nine years.

"That means Taipower has no intention of relocating the waste by the end of this year as it has promised," Chin said.

The lawmakers also called on Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) to step down, accusing him of ineptitude for his handling of the issue.

Opposition lawmakers Shen Chih-hwei (沈智慧), Lee Ching-hau (李慶華) and Huang Chou-shun (黃昭順) lent their support to the protest, while DPP lawmaker Lee Ming-hsien (李明憲) denounced it as a political stunt.

"Where were you when we sought to stop work on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant," Lee said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) called for a break and invited the protesters and Cabinet officials to closed-door negotiations.

Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), another independent legislator, said the premier has instructed the economics minister to visit Orchid Island today and apologize to its residents on the government's behalf.

At 10:20am, the lawmaking body was finally able to begin the day's business.

Yu later told the legislature he could understand the discontent of Aborigine lawmakers.

"I would take the same action, if I were in their place," the premier said. "Taipower should have been more transparent when dealing with the environmental dispute."

Asked to comment on suggestions the nuclear waste could be shipped across the Strait, Yu said he welcomed any offer of help from private sectors but doubted such a venture could materialize. Taiwan Technical Consultants Inc (台灣技術 務社), a non-profit organization, has said that it can help move the nuclear waste to China's Guandong Province if necessary.

"The Cabinet has been told of the proposal and has authorized the economics ministry to look into its feasibility," the premier said. "But there are many uncertainties in light of the delicate ties between Taipei and Beijing."

Also, he ordered authorities to probe into any negligence of duty in connection to the shifting of funds earmarked for dismantling nuclear power plants when they are due to retire.

The Cabinet, under the stewardship of Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), took NT$9.1 billion from the fund and loaned it to the cash-strapped China Shipbuilding Corp.

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