Sunday, May 20, 2007

Farmers and Fisheries Bills: Reconsidered?

Just yesterday I put up a long post explaining how the farmers associations are (ab)used by the KMT to enhance that party's control over rural areas, and today Taiwan News is reporting that the Executive Yuan has asked the Legislature (meaning the Pan-Blues) to reconsider the two disgusting bills that weaken protections for the farmers associations that it passed recently.

The amendments not only cancel three-term limits for secretaries general of farmers and fishermen associations and lower requirements for them to renew their employment but also stipulate that association staff standing trial are not to be relieved of their jobs until a final verdict is delivered in their cases.

Under the existing laws, indicted staff members from farmers and fishermen associations are to be fired from their posts following conviction in their second trials for criminal activities.

The passage of the two amendment packages with the blessing of the KMT-led "pan-blue alliance" which controls a slim majority in the legislature has drawn criticism from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and many political commentators as well.

The DPP party central and its legislative caucus have thrown support behind the Executive Yuan's plan to ask the Legislative Yuan to reconsider the two controversial bills on the grounds that 95 percent of current secretaries general whose loyalties traditionally lie with the KMT will be able to dominate the organizations indefinitely despite the fact that many of them have criminal records.

During Friday's KMT caucus meeting, two members - Legislators Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄) and Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), both of whom maintain close ties to the party's presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) - took the party authority to task for backing such controversial amendments to the laws governing farmers and fishermen associations across the county.

The two KMT lawmakers said the passage of the controversial amendments have tarnished the party's image and could even hurt Ma's presidential campaign.

"At a time when the public is fed up with official corruption and holds high expectations of political integrity, we should not hesitate to make an about-face in this matter," Hsu said.

Wu Yu-sheng echoed Hsu's view, saying that the party should not break its promise to promote clean politics. "If we fail to correct our mistakes in this case, the public could lose faith in our promise and withdraw their support for our candidates in the coming legislative and presidential elections," he warned.

This is an extremely important issue, and yes, the KMT's action may well rebound at the ballot box, though Ma Ying-jeou's previous public support for very dirty candidates appears to have had no effect on his popularity. Wu Yu-sheng, one of the KMT legislators leading the charge in this cause, has no connection to the farmers assocations. Originally from Chiayi though now a Taipei legislator, his background is journalism and cultural affairs. The other, Hsu Chung-hsiung, who represents a Taichung district, has been on the party's Central Standing Committee and has long been a public advocate of internal reform. He comes out of an education background.

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