The initiators of four Dec. 18 referendum questions yesterday accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of contravening the principle of administrative neutrality by using public resources to influence the ballot initiatives.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) and Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), nuclear power proponent Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修) and environmentalist Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政) made the remarks at a news conference in Taipei.
Lin initiated a referendum on banning the importation of pork containing traces of ractopamine, while Chiang proposed an item on holding referendums alongside elections. Huang spearheaded a question on activating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) and Pan initiated an item on relocating a natural gas terminal project to protect algal reefs off Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音).
Lin pointed to several actions he said contravened administrative neutrality, such as state-owned CPC Corp, Taiwan and Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) last month buying advertisements in national newspapers opposing the initiative to relocate the liquefied natural gas project.
The Executive Yuan also advertised that pork products containing ractopamine are just as safe as beef products containing the animal-feed additive, he said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should not have used government travel funds or requested police protection to attend public events promoting “no” votes in the referendums, he added.
The Executive Yuan is not a person and therefore cannot be an opponent of the referendums, he said.
The Referendum Act (公民投票法) allows the government only to write opinion letters or policy statements, he said.
The DPP is “brainwashing” the country using taxpayers’ money to promote its positions, he said, adding that the government should rein in its conduct to make the referendums fair.
Pan said that the DPP is not being democratic in using administrative resources to fight the referendums, adding that Referendum Act is poorly written regarding contraventions of administrative neutrality.
The government can defend its policies being challenged by ballot initiatives, but it cannot resort to smears and personal attacks directed at the people who initiated the referendums, Huang said.
He added that Taipei City Councilor Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) of the DPP hosting an event about the referendums at National Taiwan University would “taint” university campuses with politics.
The Executive Yuan is not among the registered opponents of the referendums and government officials should limit their actions to writing opinion letters in accordance with the act, Chiang said.
Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said the Referendum Act and the Ministry of Civil Service’s interpretation of administrative neutrality indicate that the Executive Yuan can show opposition to referendum questions.
The government has an obligation to defend its policies that the referendums have called into question, he said, adding that Su had participated in public events related to the referendum as part of his government duty and responsibilities.
“There is no question that the government’s conduct is necessary, legitimate and legal,” he said.
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