Fri, Apr 04, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Referendum draft review still stalled in committee

DEADLOCKED DEBATE Lawmakers remain divided over what issues could be open to a public referendum


In a bid to lend substance to an otherwise ethereal provision of the Constitution, the legislature yesterday reviewed the draft Initiative and Referendum law (創制複決法). Despite the review, no agreement was reached over which types of issues could be addressed through a referendum.

The legislature's Home and Nations, Judicial and Organic Laws and Statutes committees yesterday jointly reviewed three draft proposals of the law, which would institute a procedure for citizens to establish a new Constitution if it passes muster with the legislature.

According to Article 17 of the Constitution, the people shall have the right of election, recall, initiative and referendum, while Article 136 states that the exercise of the rights of initiative and referendum shall be prescribed by law.

The three proposals, submitted by the Executive Yuan and DPP Legislator Chen Chin-de (陳金德) and Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清), did not clearly define the issues to which the law could be applied.

The Executive Yuan's proposal states that the Ministry of the Interior is entitled to set up a committee to review referendum applications, to the exclusion of diplomatic, military, national security, budget, and social welfare policies.

Independent Legislator Sisy Chen (陳文茜) maintained her position against the law because, as she stated, of its lack of clarity on the issues over which a referendum could be held.

"The country would be totally shut down if this proposal becomes law," Chen said at the meeting.

Chen argued that important policies of major national concern, such as the inauguration of nuclear power plants, could be abandoned as citizens would be entitled to hold referendums over any construction project which they disliked.

Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) gave no answer to PFP Legislator Chou Hsi-wei's (周錫偉) question about the standards the ministry's committee would use to approve a referendum.

DPP Legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) emphasized that the law should only apply to "important national issues," such as those which concern the nation's territory or Constitution.

"We should use the law to solve problems that can't be solved by the existing administrative and legislative system," Lin said.

He added that the law would provide a framework for citizens to establish a new Constitution, should they wish to do so.

A similar idea was expressed by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) last Friday, when he stated that in light of the difficulty in modifying the Constitution through amendments, a new one should be approved by the people through a referendum.

The meeting failed to complete the review yesterday, but the three committees are expected to schedule another review. Another referendum law proposal, submitted by DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) was boycotted by the pan-blue camp last week, which said the bill would upset China.

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