Tue, Jun 12, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Legislature to vote on disputed bills

`BLACK GOLD' The premier yesterday cast light on a request to drop amendments relaxing rules meant to end corruption in farmers' and fishermen's associations

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Farmers protest the Executive Yuan's position on amendments to the laws on farmers' and fishermen's associations outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday afternoon. The Executive Yuan hopes to reverse the amendments, which cancel the three-term limits for the secretaries-general of the associations and lower requirements for the renewal of their posts.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The legislature will today vote on a Cabinet request to overturn part of the recently passed amendments to the Farmers' Association Law (農會法) and the Fishermen's Association Law (漁會法), amendments which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said could pave the way for a return to "black gold" politics.

As Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) briefed the legislature on the rationale for the request yesterday, pan-blue lawmakers staged a demonstration of about 1,000 people outside the Legislative Yuan calling for the request to be withdrawn.

"The request was proposed to defend the interests of farmers and fishermen," Chang said in response to questions from pan-blue lawmakers.

The amendments cancel the three-term limit on the associations' secretaries-general and lower the requirements of employment renewal.

The amendments also stipulate that association staffers standing trial are not to be relieved of their jobs until a final verdict has been delivered, a departure from initial regulations which dictate that employees convicted in the second stage of a trial be dismissed.

The Executive Yuan considers this part of the amendments to be a move "against people's expectations" for the eradication of black gold politics, which is why it called on the legislature to reconsider this aspect of the amendments, Chang wrote in a report to the legislature on the issue.

Chang denied that he had ever labeled the associations "symbols of black gold politics," and said that they were "the pride of Taiwan."

"I have great gratitude to the associations. I don't want inappropriate personnel to take charge of the associations, as they would damage their development," Chang said in response to a question from People First Party Legislator Tsai Shen-chia (蔡勝佳).

Tsai said that among 43,715 people working for the associations, only 14 had been indicted.

"This extremely low percentage indicates that the current regulations meant to ensure the integrity of association staffers are adequate," Tsai said.

"Most public servants are not relieved of their posts unless they have been found guilty in the final verdict, so why do the associations' employees have to answer to stricter standards?" he said.

Chang denied this, saying that public servants were suspended from their duties if they are convicted in the second stage of a trial, and were fired if found guilty in the final verdict.

The Constitution stipulates that if the Cabinet deems a resolution on a statutory, budgetary, or treaty bill passed by the legislature difficult to implement, it may, if the president consents, request the legislature to reconsider the resolution. The original resolution is retained if half of the legislators present at a meeting held to vote on the matter decide to uphold the original version.

"I would take full responsibility according to the Constitution if the request fails to pass the legislature," Chang said, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, several DPP legislators yesterday threw their weight behind the Cabinet's call for reconsideration.

"As of last month, 16 staffers of 12 farmers' or fishermen's associations had been convicted in a third trial," DPP Legislator Charles Chiang (江昭儀) said at a press conference.

A chart provided by Chiang indicated that the 16 staffers had been convicted for offenses including breach of trust, election bribery, drug dealing and embezzlement of public funds.

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