Sun, Dec 01, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Unhappy lawmakers boycott summit

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Opposition lawmakers walked out of the national agricultural summit yesterday, while farmers' and fishermen's representatives said they did not rule out the possibility of taking to the streets again on Farmers' Day next year.

Calling yesterday's summit an "academic-oriented forum" rather than a "policy-making meeting," six KMT lawmakers attending the summit held at the Taipei International Convention Center boycotted the morning session and requested to speak from the floor.

"We refuse to come over here to be cheerleaders and a rubber stamp for the government," said KMT legislator Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進). "We should be entitled to express our own opinions as should other lawmakers from different parties."

DPP legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), however, said that the DPP caucus was more than happy to let farmers and fishermen take center stage.

"Since the summit is held for farmers and fishermen, we should listen to their voices," he said. "We can always express our opinions at the legislature."

Lee also complained about the seating arrangements whereby farmers and fishermen's representatives were at the back of the room and government officials at the front.

Jumping on the bandwagon, TSU lawmaker Su Ying-kwei (蘇盈貴) said that it was unfair that representatives of farmers and fishermen got only three minutes each to speak.

As the subsequent argument dragged on for about 30 minutes, Vice Premier Lin Hsin-i (林信義) proposed that the one hour left for discussion be evenly allocated to lawmakers, experts and farmers and fishermen.

Visibly unimpressed with the proposal, all the TSU lawmakers present left the venue to show their anger.

KMT lawmakers later held a press conference at the venue saying that they would keep silent during the meeting and let farmers and fishermen have their allocated time slot.

They also refused to endorse any of the conclusions made during the meeting.

They did, however, pledge to push for the passage of the agricultural financing law at the legislature during the current legislative session.

DPP lawmakers held a press conference to call on the government to earmark a NT$10 billion relief fund for the losses to local farmers stemming from the import of cheaper or better quality imported goods.

They also requested the government provide funding to help poorly operated farmers' and fishermen's associations to continue such businesses as the promotion and marketing of agricultural produce.

To maintain social impartiality, DPP lawmakers said that the government should swiftly and fairly punish those who illegally and deliberately hollow out grassroots co-ops.

Although Chuang Chuan-hsin (莊轉心), a spokesman of Taiwan Agro-Fighters United (全國農漁會自救會), a farmers and fishermen's representative group, said that while they were happy to be able to voice their opinions at yesterday's summit, they did not rule out the possibility of taking to the streets again on Farmers' Day next year.

"Everything is possible until my men agree to drop it," Chuang said.

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