Tue, Nov 02, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Ministry, legislators sue over vote-buying claim

ARMS BUDGET The Democracy Advancement Alliance's convenor faces the prospect of a court hearing to determine if he had 'insulted' the ministry

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

The Ministry of National Defense and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus filed lawsuits against the convenor of the Democracy Ad-vancement Alliance yesterday over vote-buying allegations.

Strongly denying the claims, the ministry and legislative caucus said that the alliance and its ally, the Anti-Arms Purchase Alliance, were making empty accusations to smear the ministry.

During a press conference yesterday afternoon, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生) again denied the vote-buying allegations. Huang announced that the ministry had filed suit against alliance convenor Hsieh Ta-ning (謝大寧) in accordance with Article 140 of the Criminal Code.

Article 140 states that a person who publicly insults a public official in regard to the discharge of duties can be jailed for a maximum of six months.

Huang said the ministry wanted only to clear its name and that it would not seek compensation.

Hsieh had accused the defense ministry of buying the votes of legislators sitting on the Procedure Committee. The two groups have held a sit-down protest in front of the legislature since Sunday to protest the controversial NT$610.8 billion weapons procurement budget statute and to oppose its possible referral to the legislative floor at today's committee meeting.

Today is the statute's last chance to be placed on the legislative agenda before the last legislative sitting ends on Nov. 11. The protest is expected to end today.

The mood of the protesters yesterday was defiant, with organizers saying that all would be made clear in court.

"If they want to sue, I say let them come at us. The truth will justify our actions," the alliance's executive director, Lin Shen-jing (林深靖), said yesterday afternoon.

Hsieh and other organizers were remained vague about the source of their allegations and of the circumstances of the alleged vote-buying. They said they were keeping details to themselves to protect the "witness."

But Hsieh told reporters, "Let's just say that there was something in a Manila envelope. Somebody gave, and somebody received."

Hsieh added that the source claimed to have seen ministry officials buying votes on more than one occasion, and that he or she was willing to testify in court.

Hsieh told reporters on Sunday that the source was a member of the academic community.

Protest organizers put on a show of unity, saying that all the professors in the organization would be sued jointly, as Hsieh had spoken on behalf of everyone.

A statement said that the "people involved" should be prepared to step down should the courts prove their allegations to be correct.

"We are warning the premier, the minister of national defense and the legislators that have threat-ened and insulted us as well as protecting the Chen [Shui-bian, 陳水扁] administration to take equal responsibility and prove your innocence," a statement read. "If it is proved that you have worked in your own interests during the process of pushing through the NT$610.8 billion arms budget, you should all step down and formally apologize to the public."

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