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Lin Yi-hsiung : Referendum Law must be amended first for meaningful result
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-24 06:20 PM
Two days into his hunger strike to protest the continuing construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, former DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung broke his vow of silence by releasing an article titled "Exercise democracy and halt construction on the plant." An attached article titled "The Nuclear Power Referendum and Me" made it clear that Lin and his hunger strike are not associated with the Taiwan Referendum Association. He explained that he would not comment on the referendum issue in the future other than to repeat his contention that the Referendum Law must be modified before any more referendums are held, otherwise the results of any poll “will not be meaningful.”

Lin’s message on the referendum was posted largely as a response to the government’s announcement Wednesday that "the nuclear power issue involves electric power and therefore should be settled by a referendum of all the people. Thus the inclusion of a threshold in any referendum on the nuclear power plant is essential and it cannot be lowered.” Lin noted that he wanted the outside world to understand clearly where he stands on the issue of the referendum.

The KMT added the so-called “birdcage” threshold to the Referendum Law in 2003. Lin called the use of the threshold a very unreasonable requirement which makes it virtually impossible for any referendum to be successful. In the decade plus since the law was amended not one person or organization – including the president and both ruling and opposition parties – has been able to overcome the challenges posed by what many see as exceedingly high standards for voter turnout and approval ratios in referendums..

President Ma Ying-jeou traveled to the Taipei church where Lin is staging his hunger strike Wednesday, where he declared that the government would hold a referendum on the nuclear power plant security by referendum after the results of the plant’s security inspection are released. Lin came back Thursday with a strongly-worded open letter to Ma which questioned the president’s sincerity in what he said. Lin said Ma’s statements showed "a lack of knowledge of constitutional provisions and a serious problem with legal literacy." Lin’s criticism brought to mind the words of the Dean of the School of Law at National Taiwan University, who lamented recently, "We did not teach our students well," in an unusually honest and rueful statement obviously directed at the president.

Lin pointed out that according to present law there are two ways construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could be brought to an immediate halt. The first would be for the Executive Yuan to propose a bill to stop work and the Legislative Yuan to pass it into law. Conversely, the second way would be for the Legislative Yuan to first pass a law saying that construction should halt, then have the Executive Yuan act on the new law. Either way, said Lin, would be the least costly and most immediate approach to shutting down construction of the plant..

Lin pointed out that the president's duties in Taiwan include dealing with foreign affairs, defense and other related matters, and other political matters should be left up to the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan to handle. This is a generally-accepted provision of the constitution and it is also a matter of common sense. "Nuclear power plants are not related to either defense or diplomacy,” said Lin, and the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan should operate in accordance with the principles set out in relevant articles. The President should not be allowed to interfere with the actions of other agencies.

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