Sat, Aug 26, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blue legislator asks defense minister to quit

CAMPAIGN CONTROVERSY Lin Hung-chih accused Lee Jye of twisting military law to prevent service staff from donating to Shih Ming-teh's drive to oust Chen Shui-bian

CNA , TAIPEI

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) demanded the resignation of Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday because of a controversy over reports by a military run newspaper suggesting that military personnel do not endorse a donation campaign aimed at deposing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) issued the call at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.

Lin accused the Ministry of National Defense of twisting the Constitution and law by threatening to punish personnel who make donations, under the pretext that doing so is against the neutrality required by the military.

The ministry has deliberately given a misleading interpretation of the relevant law and Lee should step down to take responsibility for the matter, Lin said, pointing out that according to the National Defense Law (國防法), military personnel are perfectly entitled to participate in political activities after work or while they are on leave.

In view of the populist campaign led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) to unseat Chen, the military-run Youth Daily has printed a series of features in recent days stressing that neutrality must be maintained in the military.

Although the ministry has not publicly banned military personnel from making donations to Shih's campaign, ministry officials have said that those who do so might be viewed as having violated the neutrality requirement and might end up being punished if they are reported to their superiors.

The ministry denied that an investigation was under way to find out who had made donations to the campaign, but affiliated agencies have repeatedly called on personnel to maintain neutrality and professionalism, ministry officials said.

According to a spokesman for the Air Force, it is improper for military personnel to take part in political activities.

The articles run recently by the Youth Daily were aimed at strengthening military personnel's awareness of the need to maintain neutrality in a politically charged environment, the spokesman sad, adding that the military has adopted a "business as usual" attitude in the face of a sit-in protest led by Shih that is expected to commence within the next few days.

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