Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Defense ministry replies to opposition allegations

FIRM REBUTTAL The ministry maintains that it is politically neutral and says the number of troops unable to vote was less than in the previous poll

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday reiterated that it maintained political neutrality in the recent presidential elections and made a comparison of personnel who were unable to vote last Saturday with the numbers on duty in the 2000 election.

"The number of troops who had to stand on guard and were unable to return to their hometowns to cast votes in the presidential election was less this time than four years ago," said Lieutenant General Lei Kuang-tan (雷光旦), deputy chief of the general staff for operations.

difference

"The major difference between the two [elections] was that the 2004 presidential election saw both the commanding officers of all military units and their political-warfare counterparts remain at their camps at the same time during the elections," Lei said.

"These officers total 4,760. This means the number of service members who had to stay on guard during the election increased from 33,000 to 37,000," he said.

Lei said that number was lower than the equivalent figure in the 2000 election, although he didn't give the number of on-duty troops who were unable to vote four years ago.

Lei made the remarks on a military-education program that was aired nationwide through the Chinese Television Systems (CTS), which is affiliated with the ministry. The program is broadcast every Thursday morning for viewing by all military personnel from the minister of national defense down to a camp cook.

Opposition parties have accused the ministry of violating its promise to remain politically neutral in presidential elections.

Over the past few days, the ministry has been trying very hard to assure the opposition that although there were 37,000 service members on duty last Saturday and therefore unable to vote, none of them were kept at their camps for political reasons.

concerned

The ministry has previously said that out of those 37,000, 13,000 could have had the chance to vote if it had not been concerned about violating political neutrality.

Those 13,000 personnel had tentatively been scheduled to receive half-day leave to vote because their homes were within a two hours' drive of their set assignments.

The plan was dropped because of a change made to combat regulations last year which eliminated flexible leave-taking during presidential elections.

Lei's comments yesterday were the most detailed and persuasive rebuttal yet to the opposition parties' accusations.

Meanwhile, in a press release issued late Wednesday, the ministry called on certain newspapers and military analysts not to use misinformation or false accusations to insult and discredit the military.

"Please stop such actions that servers only to harm the country but please the enemy [China]," the ministry statement said.

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