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2004-01-17 20:06:29

    Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) The government will overcome all obstacles and difficulties so that the first referendum in Taiwan will be held smoothly on the day of the presidential election set for March 20, an Executive Yuan spokesman said Saturday.

    Lin Chia-lung made the remarks after the opposition parties said that they would seek ways of obstructing the holding of a referendum with the two questions that President Chen Shui-bian intends to put to the people.

    The reactions of the opposition parties are too "emotional, " Lin said, adding that President Chen has called for the "defensive referendum" in line with the Referendum Law.

    If the opposition parties want to ask the Council of Grand Justices for a interpretation of the constitutionality of president's move, the administration will respect their decision, Lin said. "The administration will continue to communicate with the opposition," Lin said, but added that it is also "determined to hold the referendum in line with the law despite all obstacles."

    Noting that Taiwan is a democratic country ruled by law, Lin said the opposition should uphold basic democracy ideals instead of opposing a legal referendum outright.

    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 holding it.

    It is expected that President 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.

    Pointing out that Taiwan is a country ruled by law, Lin said the Referendum Law should be respected. If the opposition parties boycott the vote on the referendum, then this will represent an obstruction of official duties, and the government will then have to implement it forcefully, Lin said, adding that "it is hoped there will be no need to do so."

    Premier Yu Shyi-kun also noted that referendums are a basic right of the people, saying a boycott by the opposition parties would be "inappropriate."

    The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) said Saturday that President Chen's proposed referendum is a violation of the Referendum Law. The comments came after the president revealed on Friday the two questions he intends to put to a referendum.

    The two questions are whether Taiwan should strengthen its missile defense system if mainland China refuses to remove its missiles aimed at Taiwan, and whether the government should seek negotiations with Beijing on the establishment of a "peace and stability" framework for cross-strait interactions in order to build consensus and for the welfare of the people on both sides.

    Tseng Yung-chuan, executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee, said 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 said the conditions don't exist for the president to hold his so-called "defensive referendum."

    Tseng said 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, then this will represent the will of the people, he said, adding that the Legislature will then ask the president to withdraw his proposal to hold a referendum, which he said would cost taxpayers some NT$500 million (US$14.83 million).

    Lee Chia-chin, KMT party whip in the Legislature, said that if the president still insists on the holding of the referendum, then the party won't rule out the possibility of asking the Council of Grand Justices for an interpretation of the constitutionality of the the president's move.

    In this scenario, Lee said, none of the cities and counties under the "pan-blue alliance, " namely the KMT and PFP, will take part in the referendum before the Council of Grand Justices makes its ruling. The pan-blue alliance will also mobilize more than 70 percent of the heads of the townships to boycott the referendum, he added.

    Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou said that "it is not a question of whether we will act in line with the government's decision to hold a referendum, but instead a question of whether it is necessary to do so."

    Su Chi, director of the Center of International Affairs of the presidential campaign team of KMT Chairman Lien Chan and PFP Chairman James Soong, said the opposition parties believe that the presidential election is to strengthen Taiwan's democracy, that the people have the right to referendum, and that all the people are opposed to the use of force by Beijing against the island. However, he said, the president's proposed referendum has nothing to do with these three issues.

    If the president insists on the referendum, Su said, then the administration should explain why it hasn't acquired anti-missile weapons or set up consultations with Beijing over the past three years.

    Lai Shyh-bao, a former legislator who now serves as the adviser for the Lien-Soong ticket, said that "one can do a lot of things with NT$500 million, and spending that amount on a referendum just to save face for the president is far too costly."

(By Lilian Wu)


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