Fri, Feb 24, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Pan-green lawmakers may boycott premier’s speech

STORM BREWING:Opposition parties said they would stage separate boycotts of the premier’s speech, but it remains to be seen how the tiny TSU would stage a protest

By Chris Wangand Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff Reporters

Swine farmers hold a press conference at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, holding a sign saying: “See you in Taipei on May 20.” The farmers plan to stage a protest in Taipei on that date over possible plans to allow US beef imports containing ractopamine.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Pan-green parties are expected to stage different boycotts today against Premier Sean Chen's (陳冲) policy report to the legislature over a dispute on loosening restrictions on imports of US beef containing traces of the animal feed additive ractopamine.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) said it would respond to Chen’s address on the opening day of the new session of the legislature with a “strong and determined boycott,” while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said it would boycott “in some form.”

“Public health is always the No. 1 priority for the TSU and we will not give an inch on the issue,” Huang told a press conference.

However, the TSU did not disclose how it would launch the boycott with its limited representation — it only has three seats in the 113-seat legislature.

Huang said Taiwan had banned ractopamine for health reasons, and that those health concerns had not disappeared overnight. He said he suspected that, to gain US support during his re-election campaign, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had pledged that his government would lift the ban.

The TSU said on Wednesday it would give the premier 48 hours to make a pledge not to allow meat imports containing the feed additive or it would boycott Chen’s report to the legislature.

Chen has not responded to the ultimatum.

The TSU and the DPP say the Ma administration is ready to lift the ban on the drug, which is given to cattle, pigs and chickens to promote leanness in meat. The parties said the Ma government would allow imports of US beef and pork containing the additive, despite reiterating that it had no timetable or position on the issue.

The DPP reaffirmed its opposition to lifting the ban in a legislative caucus meeting yesterday, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said.

The party does not rule out a boycott of Chen’s report, pending the results of party negotiations hosted by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) this morning, Pan said.

“The DPP is ready to deal with every possible situation. If you want me to describe the potential clash between the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and the opposition, I can only tell you: A storm is brewing,” DPP whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.

DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said the DPP caucus would submit a legislative proposal to ban the drug after further consultation with experts.

Representatives of pig farmers, academics and DPP lawmakers, including Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), Mark Chen (陳唐山), Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) and Yao Wen-chih (姚文智), said at a separate press conference yesterday that they would stage a protest on May 20 if the Ma administration lifts the ban on ractopamine.

The representatives cited findings from domestic experiments and an EU warning on the drug, saying that the use of ractopamine could lead to a higher mortality rate among pigs and heart failure among greyhounds.

Meanwhile, Sean Chen yesterday continued to defend the government’s cautious efforts in handling the US beef issue and promised to make public health the key priority, while striving to reach a domestic consensus, before a final decision is made.

Addressing a KMT administrative and legislative branch meeting, the premier dismissed opposition concerns about lifting the ban on ractopamine and insisted that the government would strike a balance between public health and the development of related industries.

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