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2004-01-28 20:10:49

    Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) Premier Yu Shyi-kun urged opponents of the government's planned referendum Wednesday not to distort the basic tenets of the nation's newly enacted Referendum Law.

    Yu made the remarks after a heated debate between Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and several Cabinet members on the referendum plan during a weekly Cabinet meeting.

    On behalf of the 14 city and county government chiefs from the opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party, Ma questioned the legality or legitimacy of President Chen Shui-bian calling a referendum on mainland China's missile threat to coincide with the March 20 presidential election.

    According to the Referendum Law, Ma, a KMT vice chairman, claimed that the president is authorized to call a referendum only when Taiwan faces a grave security threat or crisis. Therefore, he said, the legality of the planned March 20 referendum is questionable.

    Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan, and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen refuted Ma's claim, stressing that mainland China's deployment of hundreds of ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan has justified the planned referendum.

    President Chen announced earlier this month that a referendum will be held on the day of the upcoming presidential election to ask voters whether Taiwan should beef up its anti-missile defenses if Beijing refuses to withdraw the hundreds of missiles targeting Taiwan.

    Commenting on the debate, Yu said he feels regret that some critics have misunderstood or purposely distorted Article 17 of the Referendum Law which stipulates the president's right to call a referendum on major security issues. "Article 17 of the Referendum Law clearly authorizes the president to call a referendum on the nation's major security issues," Yu said, adding that opponents should not mix the referendum details with those of an emergency decree or martial law.

    In the face of mainland China's ever-mounting military threat, its denial of Taiwan's sovereign status and its continued stranglehold on Taiwan's presence in the international arena, Yu said the president has a legitimate right to call a referendum on the issue in accordance with the Referendum Law.

    Yu stressed that the planned referendum will facilitate formation of a national consensus on defending Taiwan's security and pursuing peace in the midst of Beijing's missile threat. "The referendum will also enable the people of Taiwan to demonstrate their desire for peace to the international community, " Yu said.

    Noting that the most precious spirit of a referendum is "participation, " Yu urged all of his fellow countrymen to cast their ballots in the nation's first-ever referendum on March 20. "We should use the referendum to consolidate our young democracy and win the respect of the world community."

    Yu further said Taiwan is willing to cooperate with other countries in safeguarding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

    Since a referendum is a universal value and basic human right, Yu said, every country in the world is entitled to decide whether to hold a referendum on a major policy issue. "It's a domestic affair. No other country is in a position to oppose or interfere with our decision to hold a referendum," he added.

(By Soifa Wu)


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