Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Lee condemns Referendum Law

RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT The ex-president compared the law to the KMT's preference for indirect presidential elections, saying it demonstrated a lack of trust in the people

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday said the newly passed Referendum Law (公民投票法) puts the power of the legislature above the people, infringing on democratic principles.

"The Referendum Law was passed by force by the old power [the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP)], pressuring and ignoring public opinion," Lee said at a reunion for former students of the Lee Teng-hui School, a political academy he founded.

"How could the legislature stand on top of the people? This is against the principle of the power of the people. This is an unacceptable law," he said.

Lee compared the law to the indirect elections that the KMT used to insist on using for presidential elections instead of direct elections.

A constitutional amendment passed in 1994 provided for direct elections. However, before the amendment was passed, there was a serious dispute within the KMT's mainstream and non-mainstream factions over whether the president should be elected by the National Assembly.

Lee said the law and the use of indirect elections both sought to deprive the people of their power.

"When I read the clauses of the Referendum Law, I realized it was the same in spirit as indirect elections. I was shocked. They [the pan-blue alliance] always try to cheat and fool the people because they think the people are ignorant [of their tricks]" he said.

Lee said the new law basically deprives people of the right of initiatives, and the people would only be allowed to passively ratify whatever decisions were made by the legislature.

He also criticized the proposed referendum supervisory committee, which under the new law, would be authorized to screen the topics of referendum proposals. He said having such an oversight committee was a "joke."

"What kind of power could override the power of the people and decide what kind of topics the people want to propose for a referendum?" he asked.

"What if the people endorse a referendum proposal to veto such a mechanism? I wonder how the committee members would react," Lee said.

He said that a referendum is the final say of the people and compensates for the inadequacies of the representation system.

"When lawmakers fail to exercise the people's mandate and go against people's opinion, the people could use a referendum to counter such flawed representation. This is the final means by which Taiwan could ensure its security," he said.

In related new, Democratic Progressive Party Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) yesterday said President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) proposal to hold a defensive referendum is a democratic means to ensure Taiwan's sovereignty and national security.

Provision 17 of the Referendum Law stipulates that the president is authorized to initiate a referendum should the country come under a foreign threat to its security.

Lee Ying-yuan said Chen did not mean to say with his proposal that the country is now under such a threat.

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