Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday threw his support behind the decision by the Referendum Review Committee on Thursday night to reject a Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)-proposed referendum on the government’s planned economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.
When asked by reporters whether the committee’s decision had deprived the public of the right to express its opinion on an ECFA, Wu said “Taiwan is a country where people have freedom of expression.”
“Freedom of speech [in Taiwan] is unmatched in the world. The legislature always closely oversees the government. There are many chances for people [in Taiwan] to express their opinions,” he said. “I used to take taxis before and was more impressed by taxi drivers’ opinions on politics than I was with political commentators on TV talk shows. Taiwan is a very free country.”
Wu also brushed aside allegation sthat the government interfered with the committee’s decision.
The committee turned down the TSU proposal, which asked the question: “Do you agree that the government should sign an ECFA with China?”
“It was the right decision because it upheld the spirit that a referendum should be held with caution and only when it is necessary,” Wu said.
“We did not mean that we were against an ECFA referendum,” he said. “What we were against was a proposal that was contradictory, had no substantial meaning, would waste public money, was nothing but a trick and was not sincere.”
It was not the right time to hold a referendum on an ECFA because the contents have not been finalized, Wu said, adding that the TSU could have waited until after the legislative review of the ECFA to initiate a plebiscite.
Wu said that as negotiations on an ECFA are ongoing, opposition parties should work with the government by taking an active role in overseeing the negotiations so the government can secure the largest benefit for the nation, for local industries and for the public in talks with China.
“No one will oppose a referendum on an ECFA when the legislature completes its review,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) yesterday called on the TSU and the Democratic Progressive Party to accept the decision by the Referendum Review Committee.
Because the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that issues related to taxation and the government budget cannot be put to a referendum, the question of whether an ECFA qualifies is problematic because it would address the issue of tariff reduction and investment protection, he said.