Tue, Jun 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

We trust Chen on plebiscite pledge, US institute says

DIPLOMATIC STANCE The American Institute in Taiwan commented for the first time on the US' position on Taiwan holding referendums

By Monique Chu and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spoke out for the first time over the US' position on national referendums, saying it would take the president on his word that he won't hold a plebiscite on the question of independence or unification.

"President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said in his inauguration speech on May 20, 2000, he would not promote a referendum to change the status quo in regards to the question of independence or unification," said AIT spokesperson Judith Mudd-Krijgelman.

"We appreciate President Chen's pledge, and we take it seriously," Mudd-Krijgelman said.

The AIT spokesperson declined to comment on or confirm reports that the AIT Director Douglas Paal had expressed Washington's reservations on holding referendums in Taiwan during a recent meeting with the president.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday said while there is no legal basis for the government to hold a referendum, the Cabinet is drafting an administrative decree to allow the government to do so.

"As soon as the legislature passes a referendum law, the measure would automatically be nullified," Yu said.

Since it is the consensus of both the ruling and opposition parties to hold a referendum on public policies and issues regarding people's livelihoods, Yu said, the Cabinet is obliged to propose such a measure, which has to be constitutional and not violate any existing laws.

"It's a basic human right and democratic norm to be able to hold a referendum," Yu said. "As Taiwan is a democratic country, there's no reason for us to be afraid of holding one."

As for when the government will hold a referendum, Yu said that the Cabinet will listen to the opinions of all parties.

"We won't come to a decision on whether to hold a referendum until we negotiate with all political parties, and of course, it also depends on when the ruling and opposition parities agree on the issues of the referendum," he said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Richard Shih (石瑞琦) said the ministry would continue communications with the US so as to avoid any "misunderstanding" on the part of the US over the planned advisory referendums.

"What has been planned is not a referendum on the question of unification or independence. Instead, it's a referendum on public policy issues," Shih said.

Shih declined to clarify whether it would be the top priority for Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) to have the government's stance on the issue raised with the US administration during his ongoing visit to the US.

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