Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Premier denies opposing draft on local languages

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday dismissed media reports that he opposed a draft bill designed to give local languages an equal footing.

"I'm not against enacting such a law. I just don't think the legislation is feasible because it'd be very hard to write official documents in 14 different languages," he said.

The Mandarin Promotion Council under the Ministry of Education recently has approved the draft bill of the language equality law (語言平等法).

The proposed law would prohibit discrimination against court testimonies given in local languages -- Hoklo, Hakka and a dozen Aboriginal languages.

It would also require courts to provide translations in such situations. The rules would also apply to the legislature and the Cabinet.

Accenting that he unequivocally supports the idea that all men are created equal, Yu said that all languages should be treated equally.

"As the Constitution guarantees the equality of all peoples, it should apply to all cultures and languages," he said.

Yu made the remarks during a press conference held at the Executive Yuan yesterday afternoon in the run-up to the new legislative session, which is slated for today.

Yu is scheduled to deliver a speech on the legislative floor about government initiatives planned for this year and answer questions from lawmakers across party lines.

When asked whether the government will take any concrete measures to protect the nation's sovereignty over the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands, Yu said that it is important for Taiwan, Japan and China sit down to talk and iron out their differences.

"We'd like to see a three-win situation here where all three countries are jointly involved and share the resources in disputed waters," Yu said.

A group of academics and politicians, including Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), urged the government on Sunday to take concrete measures to protect the nation's sovereignty over the Tiaoyutai Islands.

They proposed the Cabinet take the initiative and claim the 370km exclusive economic zones as a bargaining chip on the negotiation table.

The disputed fishing zone in the Yellow Sea and East China Sea is in an area which Taiwan, Japan and China each claim to be within their 370km exclusive economic zones.

Under normal circumstances, the three countries would have to engage in trilateral negotiations to resolve their overlapping claims. Japan and China, however, have negotiated a bilateral fishing pact, leaving Taiwan out in the cold.

Recently Japan has been aggressively expelling Taiwanese fishing boats from what Tokyo calls its economic waters in that area.

Regarding when the government will allow direct transportation links with China, Yu said that it will not happen until both sides sit down and negotiate.

"We're ready to talk at the negotiation table at any time, any place and to talk about any subject," he said.

Yu, however, reiterated that direct transportation links with China is not an elixir for the nation's flagging economy.

"It needs to be well thought-out since some industries may benefit from it, while others may suffer a deadly blow," he said.

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