Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Farmers, activists call on agriculture chief to resign

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Farmers and activists yesterday demanded the resignation of the chairman of the Council of Agriculture and lambasted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for failing to conduct a proper public hearing on the draft Statute on Rural Renewal as promised.

Activists said the hearing held in Taitung at the weekend “was nothing but a sham.” Instead of a public hearing where the public were allowed to debate the proposed statute with officials, it turned out to be an information session and many people were not properly informed on the purpose of the meeting.

“We were not even given a copy of the statute to read,” said Wu Tung-jye (吳東傑), executive-­general of the Green Formosa Front Association.

Under instructions from the president, the council was to hold a six-day public hearing from Friday through tomorrow to allow the public to voice their opinions on the statute.

Supporters of the statute believe once it has been passed by the legislature, less well-off rural communities will prosper by allowing urban dwellers to rent and operate farms on a large-scale using modern technologies, such as refrigeration and marketing skills. The government has said it could generate up to NT$200 billion in revenue.

Opponents argue that the statute could put Taiwan’s already waning food security in further danger and that under the plan, only large-scale farmers would benefit, while small farms would be left out in the cold.

Huang Jen-chih (黃仁志), the secretary-general of the Organization of Urban Re’s, said the council’s press release talked about inviting the public to share their views on the rural renewal, rather than on the statute itself.

Activists said the council “lied to its superiors and cheated the public.”

Chung Yi-ting (鍾怡婷), a farmer from Meinung Township (美濃), Kaohsiung County, said during the meeting that many farmers did not know why they had been mobilized to join the event.

“Some said it was for an election of some sort. Some said it was a tour, others said they had no idea. Many of the farmers went sightseeing soon after they got their lunch boxes,” Chung said.

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