Mon, Mar 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Debate focuses on missile sentiments

SYCOPHANTIC?While the independent slammed the referendum as an effort to suck up to the US, the pro-referendum speakers stressed its historical importance

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The first referendum debate kicked off yesterday with Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) speaking against independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), covering the first referendum question about China's missile threat.

In the referendum, voters will be asked whether the nation should strengthen its defenses in the face of China's missile threat and whether Taiwan should hold talks with Beijing to establish a peaceful and stable framework for cross-strait interactions.

Lin, donning a tie printed with Aboriginal totems, called on the public to take part in the nation's first referendum.

"What we want is genuine peace, not peace disguised under compromise or even humiliation," he said.

"It would be a victory for China if we failed in the referendum," he said.

A native of the Ataya indigenous tribe, Chin, wearing her tribal costume and a painted facial tattoo, called on the public to skip the referendum.

She said that the government should instead divert the NT$700 billion military procurement budget to social welfare and help underprivileged groups like the Aborigines improve their unemployment and tap water problems.

"China's military threats have been around for many years. There's only one reason why the DPP government wants to buy more weapons now and that is that they want to kiss the US government's ass," she said.

During his eight-minute opening speech, Lin said that he would like to see the momentum mustered during Saturday's human-chain peace rally carry over to the presidential election.

"Two million people came out [on Saturday] to send a message to the world that we love peace and we'll protect this land," Lin said.

"I'd like to see 20 million people take part in the election-day referendum to tell China and the world that we're against China's missile deployment and military intimidation," he said.

While some have questioned the necessity of the referendum, Lin said that there were two kinds of referendums: to resolve controversial issues and to consolidate public consensus.

"The election-day referendum has the functions of both," Lin said.

The referendum was not only constitutional and legitimate but also necessary and urgent, Lin said, because China has some 500 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan and the number continues to grow at a rate of 50 to 70 more every year.

"We're very sorry to hear some politicians deliberately smear the referendum and bombard the people with a bunch of lies," he said.

Chin, however, questioned the necessity of the NT$700 billion military procurement budget.

"I don't understand what he [Lin] was talking about and I believe neither do the nation's 76,000 low-income families, the 500,000 unemployed, the 420,000 Aborigines and 200,000 [sic] mothers committing suicide with their children," she said.

Calling the referendum a "hoax," Chin called on the public not to endorse President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who have made it clear that the government will honor the NT$500 billion (US$15.1 billion) arms-procurement plan even if the public votes down the referendum question on defense reinforcement.

While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) refused to accept the "one China" policy, Chin said that it "kidnapped" the Taiwanese people and forced them to embrace its ideals of "writing a new constitution" and "building a new country."

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