Tue, Mar 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

MND rubbishes blue-camp troops claim

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The activation of an emergency response system Friday night after the shootings of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) did not mean service personnel were unable to return to their hometowns to cast votes in Saturday's election, Deputy Minister of National Defense Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said yesterday.

Lin spoke yesterday to the defense committee of the legislature, which he attended on behalf of Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), who was receiving treatment for an eye disease at the Tri-Service General Hospital.

Rumors have been rife in the aftermath of the presidential election that the activation of the emergency response system was responsible for some 200,000 to 250,000 soldiers being unable to return home to vote.

Opposition legislators attacked Lin yesterday saying that the activation of the emergency response system was unnecessary given the lightness of the president and vice president's injuries, yet might have significantly influenced the election outcome.

Lin said that only 13,000 troops had been unable to vote, and that this was because they were on combat alert, a standard procedure on election days because of the threat from China.

Their status had nothing to do with the emergency response system, Lin said.

"These service members were unable to cast votes because of having to stay on duty to ensure a safe and steady environment for the presidential elections," Lin said.

"It had nothing to do with the activation of the emergency response system following the shootings of President Chen and Vice President Lu on Friday in Tainan," he said.

Lieutenant General Lei Kuang-tan (雷光旦), deputy chief of the general staff for operations, said at the meeting that these service members could have had a chance to cast votes but that because of a change in combat preparation rules last year, they were unable to execute their election rights during the presidential election.

In the past, service members could be granted a half-day's leave to cast their votes in an election, but these rules had been changed.

Tang's absence from the meeting sparked strong criticism from opposition lawmakers, who accused him of pretending to be sick to avoid the meeting.

Yesterday's meeting of the defense committee was about the situation in the Taiwan Strait and arms purchase plans after the presidential elections, on which Tang was invited to make a report.

But Tang failed to show up at the meeting because he has been admitted into the hospital for treatment of an eye disease.

Tang was accused by opposition lawmaker Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠) of the People First Party of using eye diseases as a pretext for not attending the meeting.

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