Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday demanded that the executive branch “do its bit” to resolve the dispute over a ban on imports of US beef containing ractopamine residues — the latest in a string of moves over the issue faced by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.
Ma on Friday night instructed the party to push for a provisional legislative session to pass an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) which would relax the ban. This came after the legislative session ended without a vote on the bill because of an opposition boycott.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led opposition staged a 120-hour boycott over the past week that blocked all proceedings and prevented the vote from being called.
However, KMT lawmakers yesterday repeated their belief — already expressed at a caucus meeting on Thursday — that the Executive Yuan should ease the import ban through an executive order.
“We already set the scene for the Executive Yuan to get the issue resolved by an executive order” at Thursday’s caucus meeting, KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) said. “Why is the Executive Yuan throwing the ball back into our court?”
Chen said the legislature “had already paid a hefty price” over the US beef issue, as the political confrontation had provoked criticism over chaos in the legislative body and legislative inefficiency.
“Even if we have a provisional session, the problems involved in passing an amendment will be unchanged. The executive branch has to do its bit. Unless President Ma orders lawmakers to push through a vote on the issue, I would prefer not to provoke a clash with the opposition,” he said.
KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) doubted the possibility of resolving the issue at a provisional session and urged the Ma government to address what Lu called the root cause of the problem: public concern about the safety of ractopamine residues in beef.
KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said “an aura of passivity and inactivity” has pervaded the caucus as a result of “misguided [government] policies.”
Tsai agreed with the DPP’s description of Ma as a “lame duck” president, saying that lame-duck signs “have been surfacing.”
KMT caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), who had repeatedly claimed he would take a hardline stance to end the boycott and secure a vote, said he wished the issue could be resolved at a provisional session through negotiation.
“If not, the Executive Yuan should try to resolve it using its executive power,” he said.
Despite complaints, KMT Central Policy Committee Chief Executive and head of the KMT caucus Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) has already prepared a proposal demanding a provisional legislative session this week that would be devoted solely to a vote on the controversial amendment.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday that he would call for negotiations between political parties to decide on a date for the session.
The DPP has said that Ma is rushing to secure a resolution of the beef issue because of the upcoming meeting of the UN Codex Alimentarius Commission on July 2. If that meeting fails once again to establish safe maximum residue levels for ractopamine, Ma would find it even more difficult to justify his plan to ease the import ban.
Wang downplayed such speculation, saying that the issue had already dragged on for far too long.
“It should have been dealt with in this [just-concluded] session. Of course we now hope to have an extra session to get the issue finalized as soon as possible,” he said.
Separately yesterday, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said his caucus opposed a provisional session to vote on the beef bill, adding that the DPP would fight to block the amendment if a vote on the bill is tabled to take place.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) also reiterated her caucus’ stance “to block the beef bill in a bid to protest the threat to public health.”
Additional reporting by Rich Chang
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