Wed, Oct 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Blues quash special arms budget bill

DEFEND THE COUNTRY The pan-blues decided to backtrack on the deal they reached on Monday, and refused to put the arms budget on the agenda

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The odds of passing the NT$610.8 billion (US$18 billion) special arms-procurement bill in the legislature before the year-end legislative elections are getting slim, as opposition lawmakers yesterday refused to push it to legislative committees for review.

Cashing in on their legislative majority, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) struck down the bill at the Procedure Committee as they had vowed, prompting the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to walk out of the meeting in protest.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum on Monday reached a consensus to send the two special draft bills on the arms-procurement project proposed by the Executive Yuan and the PFP to the Procedure Committee to set the agenda for committee review on Friday.

But despite Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) call to send the special bill to committee review before the election, opposition lawmakers claimed that the bill violated the Budget Law (預算法), and refused to honor Monday's accord.

KMT caucus whip Tseng Yuan-chuan (曾永權) said that his party endorsed the bill, but with conditions.

"Please don't misunderstand. We support the arms-procurement plan," Tseng said. "However, the budget has to be reasonable, practical and transparent."

Calling the KMT's pledge to endorse the bill as a "sugar-coated lie," DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) and his colleagues engaged in verbal clashes with opposition lawmakers, and eventually left the room to protest against what he called the opposition parties' "tyranny of the majority."

"We're very disappointed and extremely distraught over the result," Tsai said. "Even though we have shown our utmost sincerity and made several concessions to opposition lawmakers, we get only their boycott in return."

If national security should be jeopardized because the arms-procurement budget fails to pass in the legislature, Huang said that opposition lawmakers should be held responsible.

Because of its minority status, Tsai said that his party can only appeal to the public's sensibilities, and he expects to see the opposition camp come up with more excuses to boycott the bill at the next Procedure Committee meeting.

DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) questioned opposition parties' motives in boycotting the procurement project.

"As the project was proposed by the KMT administration in 1995, 1997 and 1998, I'm very curious to know why they oppose it now," Lee said. "It would make a lot more sense if China's military threat had diminished since then, but in fact it hasn't."

"I'd like to know whose side they [the pan-blues] are on," Lee said.

Lee said yesterday that he would mobilize 300 people to stage a protest outside of the KMT's headquarters today.

Meanwhile, on the legislative floor, Premier Yu Shyi-kun blamed the KMT for the recent controversy surrounding the nation's financial aid to its diplomatic allies.

Yu said that such projects have to go through standard procedures, but it is beyond the nation's jurisdiction to question how the funds are used by the beneficiary country.

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