The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said it would issue commemorative medals in honor of veterans who fought the communists during the Cold War era, adding that the timing of the honors has nothing to do with Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is to host public ceremonies later this month to present the first issue of the “Safeguard Taiwan Commemorative Medallion” to the recipients, or their dependents, in the case of deceased soldiers, the ministry said.
Assistant head of the ministry’s personnel department Major General Hsu Yen-pu (徐衍璞) said that about 12,000 veterans would be eligible — those who were wounded, captured by Chinese troops, sacrificed their life or displayed valor during battles in Cold War years.
Photo: Lo Tien-pin, Taipei Times
In response to media queries on announcing the awarding of the new medals just four days before the elections, Hsu said: “There is no political consideration in this, and the armed forces abide by principle of administrative neutrality. It has nothing to do with the upcoming elections.”
However, opposition legislators and critics were not convinced, saying the move was to sway voters toward the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in many closely fought legislative races.
“We are very suspicious of the motives behind this move. There are only four days to the elections, but the government and the military chose this time to announce this major initiative,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.
“This timing is an obvious attempt to influence the elections by granting favors to veterans and their families. The ruling party is trying to shore up its base among military personnel dependents and traditional pan-blue camp supporters by appealing to patriotism and flag waving,” said Tsai, who is a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
He said that the initiative should not be undertaken at such a sensitive time, as the decision should be left to the legislators who are elected in the upcoming polls.
Other critics said the move was Ma’s effort to consolidate support for the KMT, as this election campaign has seen pan-blue constituencies wracked by dissent and their votes splintered to support the People First Party, New Party, Republican Party and other upstart groups.
The ministry said that in addition to Taiwanese veterans, about 126 Americans and their dependants are also eligible, because US soldiers were killed or wounded in artillery battles at Kinmen, Matsu and other front-line islands, during what were known as the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crises between 1954 and 1958.
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