Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet backs plan for referendum on WHO membership

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A senior official from the Executive Yuan said yesterday the government is considering hosting two referendums to coincide with the presidential election next March.

"The government is studying the possibility of hosting two advisory referendums next March concerning the issues of whether Taiwan should strive for World Health Organization membership and a final decision on the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant on the premise that the referendums require the least social cost," said Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).

Lin made the remark during a meeting between Premier Yu Shyi-kun and reporters yesterday.

Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) said the Executive Yuan has set the goal of deciding Taiwan's WHO membership by referendum.

"The Executive Yuan, meanwhile, looks forward to the Legislative Yuan finalizing the review for the draft bill of the initiation and recall law (創制複決法) so that the proposed referendum can be held on statutory grounds, Liu said.

The statements were seen as an endorsement of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) remark that the country should consider a referendum on the WHO in order to demonstrate to the international community the determination of Taiwan to attain membership.

Chen, who made his remarks on Tuesday, said the country needs to explicitly demonstrate its hope to join the WHO to the world after it was once again barred from the UN health body due to China's political maneuvering.

The Cabinet's declaration immediately raised criticisms from opposition parties, which accused that the DPP just expected to solve its internal conflict by scarifying the whole country's interest.

"The DPP realizes that the public is seriously upset about its incapacity to rule in the country," said spokesman Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said, "therefore it again tries to mobilize those ideology supporters."

Huang said the questions of how to halt the spread of SARS and how to join the WHO do not rely on a referendum but should depend on the government's ability to make policy and execute it.

"Now President Chen must give a answer to the DPP former chairman Lin Ying-hsiung (林義雄), who asked the president to stop the Forth Nuclear Power Plant's construction before stepping down from his post," Huang said.

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