Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Arms bill sent back to committee

FOILED AGAIN Just 20 minutes into the review session, the pan-blues used their legislative majority to end the session, leaving the future of the bill up in the air again

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pan-blue lawmakers dealt the government another setback yesterday by voting to dismiss the legislative meeting and thus reject any review of the long-stalled arms procurement budget.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's arms procurement bill was originally scheduled to be reviewed yesterday, and a decision made on whether it should be submitted to the National Defense Committee for further discussion.

However, lawmakers from the pan-blue alliance of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) joined forces with eight independent lawmakers to take advantage of their slim majority to disappoint the combined forces of the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) ordered the session to be dismissed just 20 minutes after the start of proceedings after the pan-blue camp's proposal was approved by a vote. While the pan-blue alliance managed to force the decision using its majority, the alliance was five votes short of a full house because of the absence of some of its legislators, including the PFP's Shen Chin-hwei (沈智慧) and Lin Chun-de (林春德).

As a result of yesterday's dismissal, lawmakers will now meet on Dec. 27 to discuss whether to reschedule the procurement budget.

After being rejected a total of 41 times, the procurement budget was finally scheduled for discussion on the legislative floor after DPP and TSU lawmakers took advantage of their KMT and PFP counterparts' tardiness in Tuesday's Prodecure Committee meeting and voted the bill onto the legislative agenda.

Exasperated by what they called a "surprise attack," KMT and PFP lawmakers vowed they would do whatever it takes to continue the boycott.

To ensure that independent lawmakers would support the pan-blue camp's goal of boycotting the budget, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday morning invited six independent lawmakers from the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) for breakfast to seek their support.

Apart from Chen Chin-ting (陳進丁), all the union members decided to back Ma on the issue.

Lawmakers from the Independent Solidarity Union were invited to lunch by PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday afternoon.

"We feel that such an important issue should be reviewed and discussed carefully before it hits the legislative floor. That is all," said KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who is also the executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee.

Saying that he would stay neutral during the bickering, Wang, a KMT member, added that he was merely doing his job.

"I am the head of the legislature and I must respect the decisions of my fellow lawmakers," Wang said.

In response to the pan-blue camp's continued boycotting of the procurement budget, Cabinet Secretary-General and Spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said he found the results regrettable and urged lawmakers to stop ignoring the wishes of the public.

"This concerns national security and the Taiwanese people are looking forward to the legislature's approval of it. The pan-blue camp's decision has really upset us," Cho said.

Commenting on proceedings while lunching with a group of presidential advisers at the Presidential Office, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that the arms procurement plan wouldn't be such a problem if the controversy regarding national identity was solved.

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