Mon, Sep 20, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Rally opposing new arms bill to be held

PEACE STATEMENT The Democratic Action Alliance yesterday urged the public to attend Saturday's rally, saying there are better uses than arms for public money

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Democratic Action Alliance yesterday urged the public to join a so-called peace rally on Saturday to protest the Legislative Yuan's NT$610.8 billion (US$18.25 billion)proposed bill to buy weaponry from the US. The civil group's rally will begin at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall at 2pm and continue in a march along Ketagalan Avenue.

"Arms procurement cannot ensure the safety of Taiwan," National Taiwan University (NTU) psychology professor Huang Kuang-kuo (黃光國), who penned the alliance's manifesto against the arms procurement, said. "Instead, an arms race across the Strait will only imperil Taiwan, sink our economy and burden our children with heavy taxes."

The special arms procurement budget of NT$610.8 billion, approved by the Cabinet in early June, will buy eight diesel-electric submarines, six PAC-3 anti-missile systems and 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft from the US.

The price tag makes this the biggest arms purchase from the US in a decade, and has stirred complaints from lawmakers and others. The Alliance argued that the arms package is unfit for strategic use in the Taiwan Strait, and is instead tailored to the interests of the US and intended as political gamesmanship.

"The cross-strait issue is a political dilemma in which military clout hardly offers a way out," said Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), professor of political science in the NTU and the organizer of the Alliance.

The Alliance said that the arms package violates the spirit of democracy.

"The people of Taiwan already said no to a military budget in the March 20 referendum devised by the ruling party," said Chu Hui-liang (朱惠良), who once teamed up with the former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) in the 1996 presidential election. "Yet they turned a deaf ear to public opinion and ate their own words."

"If there is really a necessity for war, I want to know who we are fighting for and what we are fighting for," demanded Wang Fang-ping (王芳萍), secretary-general of the Jihjihchun Association, a civil group which fights for the rights of licensed prostitutes, laborers and housewives.

Echoing Wang's skepticism, novelist Chu Ten-hsin (朱天心) also declared that she will never support a war launched by a few "silly" politicians.

The Alliance contended that the arms deal will only inflame nationalism and squeeze out spending for social welfare. Joyce Feng (馮燕), vice president of the Child Welfare League Foundation, said the annual NT$30 million budget allotted for the foundation was not approved this year.

Feng said that if the government can lavish NT$610.8 billion on weaponry, there is no reason why they cannot afford the annual pension budget. According to Feng, the pension budget has been cut for 11 straight years.

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