Wu’s dismissal makes no sense

By Wei Jia-yu 魏嘉瑀  / 

Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 8

Following the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) election rout, the first head to roll was former Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co (TAPM) general manager Wu Yin-ning (吳音寧). However, blaming Wu makes no sense.

If Wu was a major driver behind the “Han wave” that swept her predecessor, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), to victory and is to be blamed for the DPP’s loss of the city, then what of the culpability of DPP Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), who has been pushing for the party’s New Tide faction to gain influence at TAPM?

Tuan was making Facebook posts when Han was still at TAPM’s helm, accusing the company of dirty tricks, recommending that prosecutors seize and audit its accounts, and calling for Han to be dismissed.

How about DPP Taipei city councilors Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) and Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜), who have openly questioned Han’s suitability?

TAPM is a partially state-run, partially privately owned company that controls a huge part of the nation’s agricultural products distribution and financing networks: It is only natural that the pan-blue and pan-green camps vie for influence in its operations.

The company was for many years controlled by former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) of the KMT, and Han — who was affiliated with the Chang faction — has been a thorn in the side of the DPP and its New Tide faction.

Originally, the New Tide faction had hoped to use its influence to put DPP Secretariat Director Chiang Yu-lin (蔣玉麟) at the helm, but with Han refusing to resign and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) sudden dismissal of Hsu Chang-jen (許長仁) as TAPM president, the position ultimately went to Wu. The real driver behind the “Han tide,” then, was not Wu, it was the New Tide faction.

If Wu, as general manager of a semi-governmental institution, was dismissed because of the numerous gaffes she made during her brief stint in that position, such as admitting during a Taipei City Council meeting that she did not know how to read financial reports, or her contention that she was under no legal obligation to attend such sessions and her attempt to avoid council oversight, then what about Premier William Lai (賴清德)?

Lai has come out with a few ripe gaffes himself, such as talking of “clean coal” and suggesting that low-salaried caregivers should view their jobs as “doing good deeds.”

As to whether Wu was qualified, according to TAPM statistics, the average wholesale price per kilogram at Taipei’s two fruit and vegetable wholesale markets was NT$20.55 in January last year — when Han was general manager — and NT$25.09 a year later, under Wu.

Even with all other things being equal, that does not speak of a huge difference in wholesale prices. So what is the justification for saying that Wu was out of her depth?

Wu is the daughter of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) senior presidential adviser Wu Sheng (吳晟), and she has been accused of benefiting from nepotism. The accusations fail to take into account her previous experience.

Wu worked at the local council in Changhua County’s Sijhou Township (溪州), where she promoted the use of local produce in schools and fought against the Central Taiwan Science Park taking water meant for agricultural use and the encroachment of the Changnan Technology Park into farmland.

She also acted as a consultant for the establishment of Sijhou Shangshuei Rice and helped farmers market it, and initiated local eco-friendly projects, such as promoting wetlands conservation and transforming the Chengkung Hotel from a dilapidated shell to a successful bookstore specializing in subjects related to agriculture and providing young people returning to the area to take up farming with a meeting place in which to share ideas.

Finally, Wu’s book, Where is Jianghu? — An Overview of Farming in Taiwan, is a 250,000-word work covering the period from the 1950s to the early 2000s, unraveling the damage that corruption in local government wreaked on Taiwanese agriculture.

If Wu was unqualified to be general manager of the TAPM, how about the politicians with precious little administrative experience becoming the heads of local governments?

If Wu’s lack of experience had farmers throughout the nation quaking in their Wellington boots, what about former Council of Agriculture minister Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢), who was charged with overseeing the highest government institution concerning agriculture until he resigned over the weekend?

Wu was guilty only of being an obstacle to Ko and the DPP. One day after her dismissal, the DPP decided that it would cooperate with Ko on the Taipei City Council by-elections.

If Wu was unqualified for anything, she was not up to being a political hack: She was no good at performing for the cameras and she was not up to the rough and tumble of political games.

Now that Wu has been dismissed, people should reflect on whether Taiwan needs politicians who get things done or mendacious political hacks that know only how to manipulate politics and play power games.

Wei Jia-yu is a graduate student at National Chengchi University’s diplomacy department.