Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Academic calls for national public forum

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Yuan-tseh, president of Academia Sinica, delivers a lecture entitled ``Reflections on Sustainable Development for Taiwan'' to the students of the first National Leadership class at Ketagalan Academy yesterday.

PHOTO: LIAO CHENG-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

While the government considers two referendums set to coincide with the presidential election, president of Academia Sinica Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) said yesterday that a public forum to discuss policy disadvantage and merits ahead of a plebiscite is more important than the poll itself.

"Before the holding of a plebiscite, society needs to have an open forum to publicly discuss and analyse the policy," Lee said after delivering a speech at the Ketagalan Institute. "If the public cannot have a clear understanding of what they are going to vote for, the plebiscite cannot have any meaning."

Lee's remarks came in response to questions over the government's proposal to run advisory referendums next March on Taiwan's membership of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Lee said that if a public forum could be held prior to a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the issue could be discussed scientifically without being branded a political move.

Citing recent scandals over the purchase of French-made Lafayette frigates, Lee said the issue had been politicizied because of a lack of transparency in the purchasing process.

He said a similar situation could occur during the construction of a nuclear power plant.

"When Taiwan first proposed building the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, a former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote me a letter advising that Taiwan should not purchase a nuclear power plant from the US, which has not built any nuclear power plants for three decades. Instead, he said Taiwan should import technology from France, which takes 70 percent of its power supply from nuclear energy and therefore has a strong national team regarding nuclear technology," Lee said.

"But it would become a high profile issue if Taiwan did not purchase the nuclear technology from the US due to the close relations between the two countries," he said.

Regarding the WHO referendum, Lee said "Since the public has a strong consensus to enter the WHO, I don't understand why the government still needs to hold a referendum to decide this matter."

Lee also suggested that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) impose a regulation requiring people to take their temperature twice a day. This would be the most effective way to curb the disease, he said.

According to a study by researchers of the Academia Sinica, Lee said the regulation could be carried out by mobilizing the nation's borough wardens to monitor if residents adhere to the regulation.

"Such a measure could be more effective than suggestions of halting all public activities for 10 days in order to curb the disease," Lee said.

According to Lee, a 10-day stoppage would cause the nation's GDP to fall by 1.5 percent.

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