Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday the right to hold referendums should not be stigmatized since it is a basic human right protected by the nation's Constitution.
Yu made the remarks while attending a ceremony marking the seventh anniversary of the delinking of the Central News Agency (CNA) from government oversight to becoming a largely independent organization.
Yu said he was delighted to see the opposition camp belatedly support legislation for a referendum bill to let domestic voters exercise their legitimate right to express their opinions on major policy issues.
The people of Taiwan have so far been unable to exercise their right to participate in referendums because the previous KMT administrations didn't bother to legislate how such a poll would be structured, Yu said.
Noting that the long delay in referendum legislation might result from misgivings that Taiwan holding referendums could lead to a change to its status quo or destabilize relations across the Taiwan Strait, Yu said such worries can be clarified through the legislation of a referendum bill.
"The legislation will provide a legal basis, and referendums will become a system under which the issues to be subject to a vote can be regulated to stave off controversy or any possible fallout," Yu said.
Now that major opposition parties have finally come to acknowledge the need to hold a referendum to clear up certain controversial policy issues, Yu said he hoped the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan can legislate a referendum law.
Yu recalled that Taiwan experienced a short period of social chaos following the lifting of its decades-old martial law and ban on the establishment of new newspapers in the late 1980s.
"But we have not been daunted by those disturbances. We have instead learned to exercise self-restraint and self-discipline.
"And our nation has since grown into a mature democracy with full press freedoms," Yu said.
He said the nation now needs a referendum law to enable its people to express opinions on major public issues to serve as a reference for policy formulation. Without a referendum law, he went on, Taiwan cannot live up to its goal of governance by the people and by the law.