Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Aboriginal protests are misdirected

The flooding brought by Tropical Storm Mindulle earlier this month was disastrous for southern and central Taiwan. We are all saddened when seeing the destruction of these floods and landslides because, while most of them can be avoided, such disasters are repeated as a result of man-made environmental destruction. We cannot deny the fact that local governments are ignoring excessive logging operations and hillside developments.

The aerial photographs of the disaster areas published by the authorities show that this latest disaster would not have been so serious if the areas hadn't been the target of continuous exploitation. It is understandable that Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who was among the first to visit the disaster area in central Taiwan, showed concern for future water and soil-conservation efforts in the area. She then called for the government not to immediately repair roads, so that those who profit from illegally destroying the land could not continue to do so. Instead she tried to persuade local residents to not over-develop the land and asked them to consider moving villages away from potentially dangerous areas. She also suggested that farmers, with a good grasp of agricultural methods, consider moving to South American nations with which Taiwan has diplomatic relations and set up a new life there.

The vice president's comments on this matter were not discriminatory. Unfortunately, she failed to clarify her remarks in a timely manner. As a result, her words have been repeatedly distorted by some media outlets that have a political agenda. Some legislators and political parties have also attempted to manipulate the issue, even going so far as to say that Lu wants to "exterminate the Aborigines." Hence, not fully understanding of the situation, Aborigines have become angry with Lu and have staged two major protests on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office. In yesterday's demonstration, they used the slogan "Oppose discrimination; strive for survival" to condemn President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government.

Over 70 percent of the farmers cultivating mountain land live on the plains. Those cultivating mountain land are mostly Aborigines and the farmland belongs to them. But planting technology, capital, and sales channels are all in the hands of those "people of the plains." Thus, those who rent the farmland from the Aborigines are actually the ones who are damaging the land. These people also know how to exploit legal loopholes and can often avoid official inspections. Those who really should emigrate to South America, therefore, are those people living on the plains but who make their living by cultivating the mountain land.

Aborigines represent about 2 percent of Taiwan's total population. This is not the first time they have been misled and provoked into action by politicians. Whenever they make demands, there is political intervention. The Makao Chinese Cypress National Park is one prominent example. It is therefore the responsibility of the Aborigines to learn the full truth and help the government find the real culprits behind the destruction of their land so that the Aborigines do not inadvertently become their accomplices.

Furthermore, some people of Aboriginal descent, but who have never lived with their tribe, want to use the destruction brought by Tropical Storm Mindulle as a means to further their own political agenda. These people have their sights set on winning Aboriginal votes in the year-end legislative elections.

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