Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-04-19 03:19 PM
The 113 lawmakers had originally been scheduled to vote about a proposal from ruling Kuomintang legislator Lee Ching-hua for a question to put on the ballot of a referendum planned by the government for the end of this year.
However, just before the start of the voting session, the small Taiwan Solidarity Union occupied the speaker’s platform, where it was joined an hour later by the much larger Democratic Progressive Party. As a result, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng called for a pause during which caucuses would negotiate a new time schedule.
The DPP said it did not oppose referendums, but only the manner and phrasing proposed by the KMT, which it said was trying to fool the public. According to the existing Referendum Act, at least 50 percent of eligible voters have to cast their ballot for the result to be acceptable. The opposition says President Ma Ying-jeou’s government is misusing the law to make sure the nuclear project can be completed when a majority fails to vote in the referendum.
During the morning session, KMT lawmakers held up placards saying the referendum would let the people decide the fate of the nuclear plant, now nearing completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City.
DPP and TSU legislators shouted ‘fake referendum, fake anti-nuclear’ back at the KMT camp. The ruling party had called for a complete mobilization of all its lawmakers, with sanctions threatened against those who did not follow the government lead. The KMT holds 65 out of the 113 seats at the Legislative Yuan, though some of its members have voiced criticism of the nuclear plant.
While the two sides opposed each other inside, hundreds of anti-nuclear activists rallied outside the building to call for an immediate stop to the Gongliao project. They said that if the Legislature approved the referendum proposal, they would seal off the Legislative Yuan compound.
One of the protesters, movie director Wang Shaudi, told reporters she couldn’t trust the government at all because it had not handled the issues of safety and nuclear waste in a satisfactory manner. The government had not provided clear answers to any of those issues, she said.
Opponents of the nuclear plant want the government to declare an immediate halt to the fourth plant without the need for a referendum, which they say cannot be honest under the present Referendum Act and will lead to a waste of government resources anyway. The government has argued that such a choice would be unconstitutional.
A team of international experts moved into the Gongliao plant this month in preparation for months of safety tests, which are expected to be completed shortly before the expected referendum in November or December.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang and former Vice President Annette Lu, who has spearheaded a campaign for a nuclear referendum in New Taipei City, were scheduled to visit the Taitung County township of Tajen Friday afternoon, one of the locations the government has considered as a destination for nuclear waste.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah recently promised that the county’s Orchid Island, which is mainly inhabited by indigenous Tao people, would not remain the home for its present nuclear waste forever. Residents have complained for years about high instances of cancer and about the risk of leaks, but the government has so far failed to find an alternative destination.