Groups say no-law referendum OK

SUPPORTING THE CABINET: The Northern, Southern, Central and Eastern Taiwan Societies met yesterday in support of the premier's executive decision on the issue


Sat, Jul 19, 2003 - Page 3

Representatives of several civil groups visited the Legislative Yuan yesterday to voice support for the implementation of a referendum.

"We need not engage in a confrontation at Legislative Yuan any longer. We've made up our mind to carry out the citizens' right bestowed by the Constitution to directly expressing our opinions on public issues through referendums," a joint statement made by representatives of the Northern, Southern, Central and Eastern Taiwan Societies, the Taiwan Association of University Professors, the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan and the Taiwan Pen Club said.

"The failure of the extra legislative session, which ended last week, to finalize the referendum legislation, really disappointed us since political wrangling reigned supreme during the legislative negotiations," said deputy secretary general of the Northern Taiwan Society, Michelle Wang (王美琇).

The Northern Taiwan Society decided to increase pressure on legislators to make progress on the bill by allying with other civil groups, she said.

Wang announced that a rally, endorsed by around 50 non-government organizations, would be held next Saturday to inaugurate a campaign to lobbying lawmakers to hasten the referendum legislation.

"We certainly expect to see referendum legislation at an early date," Wang said.

"But in the meantime, advisory referendums conducted by the Executive Yuan are recommended as a prelude to the country's institution of referendum by law," she said on the Cabinet's plan to carry out referendums by administrative enforcement measures.

Under the plan, released by the Executive Yuan on Thursday, the Cabinet may hold referendums by inaugurating a Cabinet-level referendum review committee. The administration justified the order by stating that pan-blue-dominated Legislature could not meet the deadline to pass a referendum bill before the end of the session thereby preventing the government from holding referendums on the same day of next year's presidential election.

The representatives met with the DPP and TSU caucuses yesterday, and pursued contacts with lawmakers of the KMT-PFP alliance.

TSU legislative leader Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君) shared Wang's views with regard to the government's responsibility to explain referendum rights to the public.

"The government needs to educate people on the meaning and significance for institutionizing referendums before realizing the plan," said Chien Lin when she received the representatives.

However she warned that a referendum implemented by administrative measures could blemish the authority of referendums since the exercise could end up being a glorified opinion poll due to a lack of legal basis, the TSU legislative whip warned.

DPP legislative convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) was also on hand to emphasize the DPP's commitment to implement a referendum law.