Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blues say that invalid referendum means arms vetoed

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus yesterday refused to review the arms procurement budget for PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries, claiming that such a review is illegal.

"The people vetoed the purchase of Patriot missiles in last year's referendum. We will be going against the will of the people if we agree to consider the budget," said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who also serves as the executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee.

According to the Referendum Law (公投法), Tseng said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cannot hold another referendum to address the same issue until 2007, let alone purchase the Patriot missiles.

In the country's first nationwide referendum held in conjunction with the presidential poll, voters were asked to vote "yes" or "no" on whether they agree that the government should purchase more advanced anti-missile weapons to strengthen Taiwan's self-defense capabilities.

Although the vast majority of the respondents said "yes," the referendum failed to achieve the 50-percent threshold required to make it valid.

Tseng yesterday also expressed his caucus' firm opposition to pushing through the special bill and budget for the other two items in the arms procurement plan, unless next Tuesday's caucus meeting reverses its original decision.

The original NT$480 billion (US$15 billion) special arms procurement bill sought to purchase three PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries, 12 P-3C maritime-patrol aircraft and eight diesel-electric submarines from the US.

At the request of opposition parties, the Executive Yuan has removed the NT$133 billion Patriot batteries from the proposal, and included them in the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) annual budget instead, decreasing the total amount of the special budget from NT$480 billion to around NT$350 million.

While Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has proposed pushing the bill through to the legislature's National Defense Committee for review, he agreed with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) that the government has to deal with the failed proposal in the referendum before it can discuss the budget for the procurement of the Patriot batteries.

On the referendum question, 7,452,340 people picked up the ballots, or 45.17 percent of the eligible ballots. However, among the valid ballots, 6,511,216 people, or about 92 percent, voted "yes," while 581,413, or 8 percent, voted "no."

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