Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) representatives from all 22 local governments are to join the party’s signature drive for a referendum on the importation of pork containing ractopamine, the KMT said yesterday, adding that it aims to collect 600,000 signatures within two months to ensure that the measure appears on next year’s ballot.
The KMT is to begin collecting signatures on Wednesday next week, after the Central Election Commission (CEC) approved its proposal on Dec. 18.
Under the Referendum Act (公民投票法), the KMT has six months to collect nearly 290,000 valid signatures, or no less than 1.5 percent of the total electorate in the most recent presidential election.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
However, the party is hoping to collect enough by March to leave sufficient time to verify the signatures and make it to next year’s ballot, as the act stipulates that from next year, referendums are to be held once every two years on the fourth Saturday of August.
Aug. 28, the day of the referendum, “would be the day people decide on their own health and on their own food,” KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.
He accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of failing to communicate with the public ever since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Aug. 28 announced the decision to ease restrictions on the importation of US pork containing traces of ractopamine and beef from cattle aged 30 months or older.
“Coupled with the DPP caucus’ self-castration, this series of developments has exposed the administration’s two major failings: representative government and food safety,” Chiang said.
Even with more than 60 percent of people in opposition, it still issued the order and bungled labeling guidelines, he added.
Corporations cannot be relied upon to govern themselves — if that were the case, then the government would be unnecessary and all officials could step down, he said.
As the representative system has been incapacitated, the KMT is taking a more direct approach, Chiang said, urging the CEC to take an impartial role.
If the referendum makes it to the ballot in August, it would be the last chance to stop the open importation of high-risk meat products, Chiang said.
KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) said that the party firmly believes it can collect 600,000 signatures in two months.
The KMT is to set up signature collection points all over the country, KMT Culture and Communications Committee director-general Alicia Wang (王育敏) added.
Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強), director of the KMT’s Institute of Revolutionary Practice, said that referendums can overturn policies that run counter to public opinion.
However, they cannot be passed by one political party alone, he said, adding that the KMT put forth the proposal to allow the public a chance to decide its own fate.
DPP spokeswoman Yen Juo-fang (顏若芳) yesterday said that the issue is one for science, not politics.
The benchmark for ractopamine residue levels should adhere to international scientific standards, she said.
Unfortunately, Chiang — who eight years ago voted in favor of importing meat containing ractopamine — is crying “food safety” to divide public opinion and obstruct the advancement of international trade, Yen said.
Separately yesterday, Control Yuan President Chen Chu (陳菊) for the first time led an inspection of the Executive Yuan.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told the group that imported US beef and pork would be subject to five measures: farm inspections, additional meat classification codes, inspections on a batch-by-batch basis, clear labeling and strict labeling inspections.
He also said more than 3,300 schools have revised their contracts with food providers, and that the government would strictly enforce regulations to protect public health.
Additional reporting by Yang Chun-hui and Huang Wei-chu
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