■ Law and order
KRTC official denies charges
Almost four hours of videotapes taken of the bidding process for construction of six sections of Kaohsiung's rapid transit system were played at a court hearing yesterday during which the suspects were given a chance to give their interpretations of the recorded facts. Chen Min-hsien (陳敏賢), former vice chairman of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC) and a key suspect in the case, denied he had known the base prices for each bid and had revealed them to contractors he favored. He claimed the video recordings show that he couldn't have had access to the base prices. Chen, former KRTC deputy general manager Lai Hsien-yu (賴獻玉), a former Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) official and two former Kaohsiung city government officials were indicted on charges of disclosing classified information and breach of trust after the prosecution found the winning bidders offered prices "unusually close to the government's base prices."
Arms bill fails for 44th time
The legislature's Procedure Committee yesterday rejected the arms procurement plan for the 44th time, while the confirmation of the National Communications Commission (NCC) members were placed on the legislative agenda. The pan-blue-controlled committee also shelved the confirmation of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) Control Yuan nominees, the administrative corporation bill, the disposition of party assets bill and draft amendments to the Referendum Law (公民投票法). A draft bill to create an ethics and anti-corruption bureau under the Ministry of Justice and draft amendments to the Organic Law of the Ministry of Justice (法務部組織法) were also deferred.
Hospitals to strengthen ties
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday announced a new assistance initiative in which several Taiwanese hospitals will adopt the local hospitals of Pacific island countries in a bid to bolster Taiwan's relations with its South Pacific allies. Director of MOFA's Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs Donald Lee (李傳通) said yesterday the new medical assistance measures would provide medical experts to the South Pacific countries of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Papua New Guinea and Fiji do not have official relations with Taiwan.
MOFA rejects Spratlys plea
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday rejected Vietnam's demand that it cease building airstrips on the disputed Spratlys archipelago, an oil-rich region over which many Asian countries, including China, also claim sovereignty. Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said last week Taiwan's plans to build airstrips on an islet it calls Thai Binh would be a serious violation of Vietnamese sovereignty. "We have no political intention or military purpose, and do not intend to cause tensions to rise in the region," MOFA said in a statement. "We urge Vietnam to treat the airport construction rationally and to not divert the focus to sovereignty disputes," it said. Taiwan said the airport would be used for humanitarian purposes.