Leaders of irrigation association to be appointed by government

Taipei-The Legislative Yuan voted Wednesday to abolish the direct election of leaders of local irrigation associations, one of Taiwan's major organizations for farmers.

Instead, the positions will be filled by appointment, a move blasted by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) as designed to incur political gains for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Under the new amendment to the Act of Irrigation Association Organization, the heads and executives of 15 irrigation associations, whose four-year terms are scheduled to end April 30, will continue to serve two more years until Sept. 30, 2020.

On that day, when the terms of the heads and executives of Taiwan's two other irrigation associations in Taipei terminate, the head positions will be filled by appointments made by the Council of Agriculture (COA), the supervisory authority of local irrigation associations, rather than by elections as has been the case since 2002.

According to the COA, the reason for taking control of the associations, which are responsible for irrigation operations and maintenance, is to improve efficiency in the use of agricultural water and to provide better services for farmers.

The DPP government, which holds the majority of seats in the Legislature, however, has been criticized for returning the associations into the government's hands for its own advantages.

Several thousand people mobilized by KMT local chapters from around the nation protested outside the Legislature that day, holding placards saying that the "centralized DPP government" intends to use the positions to lure support from KMT-affiliated local factions and that the change is "a step backward in democracy."

Of the nation's 17 irrigation associations, only four are led by people affiliated with the DPP -- in Yilan, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung, Chen Jung-fu, who works for the Taichung Irrigation Association, told CNA.

Since 2002 under the previous DPP administration, farmers have been granted the power to elect leaders of the irrigation associations, Chen said, adding that the "DPP can't just take back the power because it later lost to the KMT in association elections."

DPP Legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (???) rebutted the argument, saying that the KMT, which at the time held a majority in the Legislature, pushed to establish the direct election system after the DPP came to power in 2000.

Ker said that a cross-party consensus was reached in the late 1990s that the positions filled through voting by a selection committee should be changed to appointed positions, but the KMT backtracked after 2000 so as not to give the DPP the power of appointment.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel