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LOCAL GOVERNMENTS WHO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM COULD FACE PUNISHMENT

2004-01-18 16:39:27

    Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) Local governments and individual public functionaries who boycott the holding of a referendum March 20 could be dealt with by the law, Executive Yuan spokesman Lin Chia-lung said Sunday.

    Lin said the government is convinced that a great majority of the nation's public functionaries are supportive of the March 20 referendum plan, which was set forth by President Chen Shui-bian in line with the Referendum Law passed late last year.

    All government employees should do their duty in facilitating the holding of the referendum in the same way that they cooperate to facilitate the holding of any nationwide general election, Lin said.

    Lin added, however, that government employees and local governments who boycott the referendum at the instigation of the opposition "pan-blue alliance, " could be dealt with in accordance with the Law on Discipline of Public Functionaries.

    Chen announced Jan. 16 the two questions he will put to a referendum on the day of the next presidential election set for March 20.

    The two questions are whether Taiwan should further strengthen its defense capabilities if mainland China refuses to remove its missiles aimed at the island, and whether the government should engage in negotiations with Beijing to set up a "peace and stability" framework for cross-strait interaction.

    Immediately after Chen spelled out the questions, the opposition parties, mainly the "pan-blue alliance" of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) , said they will seek ways to obstruct the holding of the referendum.

    In response to this, Lin said Saturday that the Executive Yuan is "determined to hold the referendum in line with the law despite all obstacles and difficulties."

    If the opposition parties are determined to boycott the referendum, this will represent an obstruction of official duties and the government will then have to implement the referendum forcefully, Lin said, adding that "it is hoped there will be no need for this."

    The "pan-blue alliance" is expected to take a three-step approach toward boycotting the referendum: Putting Chen's two questions to a legislative vote; asking the Council of Grand Justices to make a ruling on the constitutionality of the two questions; and mobilizing the heads of counties and townships islandwide to boycott the referendum.

    Tseng Yung-chuan, executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee, said Saturday that Article 17 of the Referendum Law empowers the president to call a referendum when the nation faces an obvious and immediate threat to its sovereignty. However, Tseng went on, the conditions do not exist requiring the president to hold his "defensive referendum."

    He added that when the new session of the Legislative Yuan opens Feb. 6, the KMT and PFP will put the two questions to a legislative vote. If the legislature passes them, this will represent the will of the people, he claimed, adding that the legislature will then ask the president to withdraw his proposal to hold a referendum, which he said will cost taxpayers some NT$500 million (US$14.83 million).

    For his part, Executive Yuan spokesman Lin said Sunday that he sees no chance of the "pan-blue alliance" seeking an amendment to the Referendum Law in an attempt to torpedo Chen's referendum plan.

    Lin said it would take at least four months for such an amendment to be passed into law and the "pan-blue alliance" has absolutely no chance of seeing it become law before March 20.

    Meanwhile, Lin said that it will take about 26 days for the Executive Yuan to pass the referendum proposed by the president before sending it to the Central Election Commission to make the preparations for its execution.

    It is expected that Chen will formally propose the referendum after Chinese New Year, which falls on Jan. 22 this year, and that the Executive Yuan will send the proposal to the Central Election Commission between Feb. 10 and Feb. 15, he said.

    Also Sunday, Tsai Huang-lang, a legislative party whip of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, lambasted the "pan-blue alliance" for threatening to boycott the referendum.

    Noting that boycotting the referendum would be a violation of the law, Tsai said the opposition's scheme to undermine the legal referendum is a move contributing to nothing less than "ripping the nation apart."

(By Deborah Kuo)

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