Sun, Nov 07, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Blue camp's rift widens over weapons deal statute

DIVIDED The PFP will attempt to block the arms deal from getting on the legislative agenda, but without KMT support, they may not have the votes to do so

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

The People First Party (PFP) will resist the possible placement of the controversial NT$610.8 billion arms deal bill on the legislative agenda when its scheduling is discussed on Tuesday, PFP chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) said yesterday.

"We are firmly against the arms budget. There are many things [in the budget statute] that we would like to be reassessed, including the price of the weapons and the intended purchases," Soong said yesterday in Taipei while stumping for PFP Legislator Lee Chin-an (李慶安), who is running for re-election in the legislature.

"We want the budget sent back to the Executive Yuan so that it can be reassessed by the Ministry of National Defense," he added.

Since its proposal, the arms budget has met heavy resistance from social groups, whose cause was later picked up by the PFP. For the budget to be approved by the legislature, it must first pass through the Procedural Committee. The bill has failed to make it past the committee due to a boycott by the pan-blue camp.

Next Tuesday is the statute's last chance to be placed on the legislative agenda for the current legislative session. But even if the statute is approved, it will not be discussed in the legislature until Dec. 14, at the earliest -- the date for the first sitting of the legislature after the December elections.

In contrast to Soong, Legislative Speaker and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday said he was not averse to the possibility of passing the statute through next week's Procedural Committee.

Wang's words yesterday echoed his promise earlier this month to see the statute placed on the legislative agenda before the current legislative session ends Nov. 11.

Speaking to reporters while on the campaign trail in Taipei yesterday, Wang also said he and KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) were in agreement that the statute should pass committee be placed on the legislative agenda.

Asked about Wang's comments yesterday, Soong replied only that each party was entitled to its own position.

The comments mark another rift in the pan-blue camp, whose run-up to the December legislative elections have been marked by constant reports of discord between the KMT and PFP.

Despite its inner turmoil, the pan-blue camp's heavyweights were united yesterday in their criticism of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

While lending their star power to legislative candidates' campaigns throughout the nation yesterday, Lien and Soong blasted the administration for hindering the development of Taiwan's democracy. The two chairmen pointed to the pan-blue camp's recent loss in its lawsuit challenging the results of the March 20 presidential elections as a further indication of the Chen administration's drive to win at the cost of Taiwan's democracy.

Since the Taiwan High Court ruled against the pan-blue camp last Thursday, the two parties have been vocal in accusing the government of unfairly influencing the court in making its decision.

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