Wed, Dec 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Arms bill to go before legislature

`SURPRISE ATTACK' The DPP was able to approve the arms package and other bills for discussion because several pan-blue members were late for the meeting

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The long-stalled arms procurement bill unexpectedly passed the legislature's Procedure Committee yesterday due to low attendance by the committee's pan-blue members, but the pan-blue camp vowed to block the package in Friday's legislative sitting.

The arms procurement package had been blocked by the pan-blue dominated Procedure Committee 41 times since the beginning of the legislative term in February.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip William Lai (賴清德), who chaired yesterday's meeting, began the sitting promptly at noon, when just five of the pan-blue camp's 19 committee members had shown up. The DPP had mobilized all of its committee members to be there, giving Lai the quorum he needed to proceed.

DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) proposed halting discussion of the bills on the committee's agenda, and push them through to either the legislative session or other committees for review.

Pan-blue committee members opposed Hsu's plan, leading Lai to call a vote.

All of the DPP's 13 committee members voted in favor of Hsu's proposal to put all of the bills on the legislative agenda, while the outnumbered pan-blue members voted against it.

In addition to the arms budget, the bills now on the legislative agenda include confirmation of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) nominees for the Control Yuan, the president's state of the nation address -- expected to focus on the arms procurement package -- and different versions of a party assets bill intended to compel the KMT to return its stolen assets.

The committee also voted in favor of Hsu's other proposal to stop discussion of the proposed bills.

retaliation

Describing the DPP's move as a "surprise attack," pan-blue committee members yesterday vowed to adopt retaliatory measures, including sending all the bills back to the committee for further screening or withdrawing from all cross-party negotiations on the government's budget for next year.

KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who also serves as executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee, criticized Lai for "deliberately causing political confrontation" and said that the DPP should be held fully responsible for the ensuing legislative showdown, which is set to begin on Friday.

"We condemn him for abusing his power as the committee chair. We have no idea why a caucus whip like him is so stupid as to provoke partisan strife while all parties are busy negotiating next year's government budget," he said.

He declared the committee meeting invalid because the entire procedure was conducted illegally, he said.

People First Party (PFP) caucus whip Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) berated the DPP as "immature" and "ignorant" because it knew that the pan-blue camp could easily reverse the situation at Friday's sitting, in which the pan-blue camp enjoys a majority.

"They knew were were preoccupied with inter-party negotiations over the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) at noon, when the Procedure Committee meeting was held," Hwang said. "They staged a surprise attack, but it will only make them happy for two days."

opportunity

In response, Lai called on the pan-blue camp to refrain from linking the government budget with government bills, and to seize the opportunity to pass long-delayed bills such as the arms procurement plan.

Hsu asked the pan-blue camp to stop its "irrational obstruction," and said that the committee's approval of bills should be considered the norm rather than a surprise, because all bills which are in compliance with legislative procedure should easily pass through the committee to the full legislature.

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