A political neutrality requirement for members of the nation’s 15 irrigation associations means that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is to lose several of its Central Standing Committee members, a party source said yesterday.
An amendment to the Organic Regulations for Irrigation and Water Conservancy Associations (農田水利會組織通則) implemented in November returned control of the associations to the government. To facilitate the transition, the terms for leaders and members of the associations were extended to 2020, but all are required to follow the Civil Service Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法) during the interim.
One of the KMT’s most influential Central Standing Committee members, Lin Wen-jui (林文瑞) — who is also head of the Yunlin Irrigation Association — last month resigned from the party, the source said, adding that the party believes the resignation is unnecessary.
The KMT has protested the amendment, saying it would make the associations a tool for political manipulation, with one legislator calling it a scare tactic aimed at coercing farmers into voting for the Democratic Progressive Party. Giving control of the associations to the Executive Yuan would “bind the hands and feet” of association members, the KMT said.
Eleven association heads are also KMT members, such as Lin, who holds various party posts and also leads the Joint Irrigation Association, in addition to the Yunlin organization.
The KMT believes that association heads and members should not be required to resign from the party if their positions within the KMT are unpaid, the source said, citing Lin, whose serves on the Central Standing Committee as a volunteer.
“Otherwise, you may as well change the Constitution to say that no civil servant can be a member of a political party,” the source said, adding that people should be free to have political affiliations if it does not interfere with their work.
Lin should not abandon his party affiliation, KMT Central Standing Committee member Lee Te-wei (李德維) said, adding that his party-related roles are honorary and not salaried.
“Is it not the case that there are Democratic Progressive Party Central Standing Committee and Central Executive Committee members who are also paid government officials?” he added.
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