Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blue groups rally against arms procurement plan

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Over 30 people set up camp on the doorstep of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to protest the possible passage of a NT$610.8 billion weapons procurement budget in next week's Procedure Committee.

Members from the Anti-Arms Purchase Alliance and the Democratic Advancement Alliance yesterday began a sit-in protest at 2pm yesterday to urge legislators who will participate in tomorrow's committee meeting to not to let the contested budget enter consideration in the current legislative sitting.

The initiative for the marathon protest, said Democratic Advancement Alliance convener Hsieh Ta-ning (謝大寧), stemmed from a recent rumor that the Ministry of National Defense has been buying the votes of members of the Procedure Committee.

The arms budget statute is set to be discussed in the legislature's Procedure Committee tomorrow.

If the statute fails to pass, it will delayed until Dec. 14, at the earliest -- the date for the first sitting of the legislature after the December elections.

The possibility of the statute's passage in the Procedure Committee is likely if the ministry is indeed buying the votes of committee members, members of the Democratic Advancement Alliance said yesterday.

Hsieh declined to identify the his source, saying only that he had been tipped off two days ago from someone within academic circles.

Hsieh also said the source had witnessed vote-buying happening in person, and that the ministry was approaching both pan-green and pan-blue legislators.

Hsieh refused to go into detail when asked about the supposed terms of the agreement between ministry and the legislators it had approached. Hsieh also said that he did not know which legislators had been approached or how many.

The allegations surprised independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), who joined the sit-in protest briefly yesterday afternoon to express her support for the group.

Saying that while she had not personally heard of any vote-buying in the legislature, Chin added that she had heard of such cases in her years as a legislator.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生) yesterday denied the vote-buying allegations.

The ministry, said Huang, limits its interactions with legislators to explanations of the importance and urgency of its proposed policies.

Protest organizers invoked the recent controversy stemming from comments last week by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Taiwan is not a sovereign nation and that the US hopes for a "peaceful resolution" for the conflict between Taiwan and China.

"The US has already made it clear that it will not support Taiwan as a nation. Why then, should we still pay them such a large amount of money for an insurance policy?" Chang said.

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