Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Pan-blues, social groups join against arms budget

CONTROVERSIAL BILL As activists demonstrated outside of the Legislative Yuan yesterday, opposition lawmakers pledged to block the special statute

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the National Alliance Against the NT$610.8 billion Special Arms Budget and the Democratic Action Alliance stage a protest and hunger strike in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to call on opposition lawmakers not to let the arms-procurement bill pass through committee.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Social and political groups mobilized against the passage of a controversial arms budget statute yesterday, with pan-blue legislative caucuses promising to boycott the statute when it comes up in the Legislative Yuan's Procedure Committee today. Meanwhile, anti-arms social group, the Democratic Action Alliance (DAA), waged a hunger strike at the legislature yesterday and warned legislators not to support the statute in the committee.

Calling the budget plan too expensive, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) held press conferences reiterating their determination to send the Cabinet's proposed budget plan and statute allowing the budget formation back to the Executive Yuan.

"The NT$610.8 billion arms budget must be cut down by NT$30 billion and be passed through the regular budgetary procedure, instead of being proposed along with the special budget statute," said KMT caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) yesterday morning.

The NT$610.8 billion (US$18.6 billion) arms purchase special budget has met heavy resistance from social groups and opposition parties since the Cabinet proposed it earlier this year.

Up until now, the government has been unable to pass the statute allowing it to form special budget proposals and the budget plan itself through the legislature's Procedure Committee, which decides the agenda for each legislative sitting.

Given the consensus by the pan-blue camp to again boycott the statue today, it is unlikely that the statute will be discussed this legislative session after it reconvenes on Dec. 13.

Aside from the cost, the pan-blue caucuses objected to the government's attempt to simultaneously propose the statute that would make the special budget proposal legal at the same time as the budget plan itself.

"The statute regulating the formation of special budget cases has not even been passed yet; how can the government ask us to approve the special arms budget at the same time as the statute?" asked PFP caucus spokesperson Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄).

If the government wants the caucuses' support, it will first have to wait for the legislature to discuss and pass the statute allowing special budget cases, and then propose the arms budget, Liu said yesterday.

"Until then, there is no way that the budget will not get sent back to the Executive Yuan," Liu said.

The KMT legislative caucus' decision to boycott the statute and the special budget came as a surprise, given that Legislative Speaker and KMT Vice Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told reporters this weekend that he and KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) were both supportive of the statute's passage through the Procedure Committee.

Reacting to Wang's comments, the DAA also added its voice to the fray by staging a sit-in hunger strike outside of the Legislative Yuan yesterday afternoon.

Saying that they did not trust the legislative caucuses, the group gathered over 20 academics to stage the protest and warned that they would be watching out for who supported and opposed the statute and budget plan in today's meeting.

The hunger strike is to last until the procedural committee's decision is made clear today.

The DAA staged a similar sit-in protest on the steps of the legislature before last week's Procedure Committee meeting to protest the statute's possible passage.

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