Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blue lawmakers rule out buying Patriot missiles

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pan-blue legislators yesterday said they will not approve the bill for the purchase of Patriot missile batteries because the referendum held last year in tandem with the presidential poll was a public "veto" of the purchase.

"President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) used a national security issue as a political gambling tool, and he lost. So, as a democracy, the government and legislature should keep to the law and should not allow the Patriot-missile arms bill to be passed," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) said at a meeting of the legislature's National Defense Committee yesterday.

"According to the Referendum Law (公民投票法), a referendum that fails to get the number of votes necessary to make a valid result cannot be put to a vote for three years, so the arms bill should not be proposed before March 2007," Su added.

The Referendum Law stipulates that any item put to a referendum, after being approved or rejected, can't be put to public vote again for three years. Last year's referendum was declared invalid.

Su said he asked Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) to withdraw the bill for the Patriot missile batteries so that the ministry could save face.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) asked Lee why the ministry had still proposed the bill after the referendum had been "vetoed."

Lee responded that the ministry did not want to jump into political waters.

"Regardless of the result of the referendum, the ministry would continue to promote the establishment of Patriot missiles for national security," Lee said.

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

The ministry has proposed transferring NT$133 billion of the budget -- for three batteries of PAC-3 missiles -- to the regular defense budget.

Last year's referendum failed to get the number of voters necessary to make the result valid. Only 45.17 percent of eligible voters took part. The law requires at least 50 percent of those eligible cast votes to make it valid.

The referendum question asked voters to answer yes or no on two questions, one of which referred to boosting missile defenses.

Among the valid ballots, 6,511,216 people voted yes, with 581,413 voting no, or 11 to one in favor of the question.

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