Thu, Mar 16, 2006 - Page 3 News List

President Chen stresses that it's `up to the people'

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) reiterated yesterday that only the 23 million people of Taiwan can have the final say on the future of the country and any change to the "status quo" must be approved by the people through a referendum.

Taiwan has paid a great price in its transformation from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, but the country will continue down the road of democratization regardless of difficulties, he said.

"Democracy is a universal value and common belief of Taiwan and Palau," Chen said as he met with Augustine Mesebeluu, leader of Palau's House of Delegates.

"Palau went through eight referendums before it gained independence, free from association with the US," he said.

"Referendum was regarded as a political taboo during the authoritarian era, something equivalent to disaster or war," he said.

"However, we have managed to overcome many difficulties over the years, including passing a referendum law and holding the first national referendum," he said.

Chen, who visited Palau in January last year, told Mesebeluu and his wife that he hopes to make another state visit to Palau.

He said Palau and Taiwan are both democracies as well as marine countries, which form the pillars supporting the two nations' friendship.

They also share the same Austronesian cultural heritage characterized by vitality, openness, passion, adventurous ardor and enterprising spirit, which laid the foundations of the friendship, he said.

Chen also met with Gambian Foreign Minister Lamin Kabba Bajo at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.

Bajo told the president the Gambia would continue to support Taiwan, especially its bids to join international organizations such as the UN and WHO.

"President Yahya Jammeh has asked me to convey the message that as long as he is alive and his country exists, he and his administration will forever fulfill the commitments he made to Taiwan," Bajo said.

Chen thanked Jammeh for inviting him to attend the African Union summit to be held in Banjul, the Gambia, in July.

Officials at the Presidential Office said the president would be happy to attend, although the matter was still under evaluation.

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