Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 3 News List

DPP demands KMT explanation

WHAT'S GOING ON?The Democratic Progressive Party's legislative caucus yesterday asked the KMT to explain why it is blocking the arms procurement bill

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Northern Taiwan Society chairman Wu Shuh-min, second left, leads a special donation ceremony in Taipei yesterday called ``Peace is a Blessing: Saving Taiwan through Arms Procurement.'' The aim is to encourage everyone in Taiwan to donate NT$100 to pay for the government's proposed military purchases, in the light of the legislature's inability to pass the arms procurement bill.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday requested that the pan-blue alliance offer an explanation for their opposition to the long-stalled arms procurement bill.

"While Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), who is currently in Europe on a state visit, is trying whatever he can to convince the European Union to lift the 15-year-old ban on arms sales that has been in place since the Chinese military crushed student protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989, the pan-blue camp has been blocking the arms procurement bill for over a year," DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said.

The arms procurement bill has been rejected by the legislature's Procedural Committee 36 times since the beginning of this legis-lative term in February.

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 outlay earmarked for Patriot batteries over the next 15 years from the proposal, and included them in the Ministry of National Defense's annual budget instead, lowering the total amount of the special budget from NT$480 billion to around NT$350 million.

Despite the government's concession, the pan-blue alliance remains opposed to the watered-down version of the originally proposed bill.

Citing a recent example of the Taipei City Government's handling of the national flag, Lai theorized that the reason the pan-blue camp keeps opposing the arms procurement plan is to "raise China's national flag and lower Taiwan's."

Lai was referring to a national figure skating competition held at Taipei City's new indoor stadium on Tuesday. While there is a Chinese national flag flying at the venue, Taiwan's national flag is nowhere in sight.

DPP caucus whip Chen Chi-jun (陳景峻) said that the pan-blue camp is joining forces with Beijing because Beijing exerts itself to bully Taiwan not only on the military front, but also on the legislative, scientific and economic front.

Chen said that he would like to ask Taipei Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) one question. He wants to know why there is no national flag at the figure-skating event, and whether he thinks such an arrangement is a disgrace to national dignity.

In related news, DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), who is a member of the legislature's National Defense Committee, yesterday said that his caucus will try to request a special budget or additional budget for Patriot anti-missile batteries this year or make the regular budget request next year. The defense committee recently crossed out NT$10.9 billion of the Patriot missile batteries' secret budget earmarked for next year.

His caucus would also file for a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices to rule on the legitimacy of the country's first nationwide referendum.

In the poll, voters were asked to vote "yes" or "no" on whether they agree that the government should purchase more advanced anti-missile weapons to boost the nation'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.

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