Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Ma's token proposals benefit few Aborigines

By Isak Afo

A few days ago, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) visited Aboriginal tribes in Taitung County as part of his "long-stay" tour of the nation. In addition to making him appear more approachable, the tour gave Ma the chance to release a white paper on Aboriginal policy.

But an analysis of the paper leaves one frustrated. Given the KMT's wealth of political talent and that Ma is a Harvard law graduate, one could have expected a global perspective that measures up to international standards of governance.

So why is his white paper on Aboriginal policy superficial and short-sighted, as if Aborigines were of no importance?

Ma's policy shows no sense of integration with the international community. On Sept. 13, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which concerns all the indigenous peoples of the world, was adopted by the UN General Assembly. The fact that Ma -- more than a month later -- did not include this declaration in his white paper highlights his ignorance and indifference to Aboriginal issues, as well as his campaign team's laziness and carelessness.

Ma seems to be treating Aboriginal people as if he were still the mayor of Taipei.

At first glance, his proposal seems filled with preferential treatment, but it all turns out to be discriminatory colonialism encouraging the assimilation of Aborigines.

Many of the proposals could be implemented by the Council of Indigenous Peoples' education/culture and health departments, and many are indeed being implemented or are in the planning stages.

The white paper proposes self-determination for Aboriginal peoples, but it is a "self-determination" that is not based in self-governance. Ma wants to force Aborigines to accept the government's "good laws and good intentions." This approach has long been criticized elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, the key to Aboriginal self-determination is land -- one of the most important Aboriginal rights.

Unfortunately, the word "land" is not mentioned once in the white paper. What kind of self-determination is that without land?

The paper doesn't even clearly mention the enactment of sub-laws to the Aboriginal Basic Law (原住民基本法), the most important part of the project of codifying the rights of Aboriginal peoples.

It makes one wonder if Ma is preparing to run for president or for mayor of Taipei all over again.

In his essay "Politics as a Vocation," German economist and sociologist Max Weber suggested a distinction between politicians whose interest is more non-vocational in nature and those who pursue politics as a career.

The former are eager to seize power and selectively advocate issues that serve their own purposes. Such politicians can manipulate the public by accustoming it to pursuing short-term benefits.

Ma is committing this mistake by only proposing short-term goals -- such as building bridges and constructing roads -- to cater to Aborigines while avoiding discussion of long-term sustainable development that can safeguard the dignity and self-determination of indigenous communities.

I hope our political leaders can be "vocational politicians" and offer policies that are capable of touching the hearts of Aborigines, and who can then implement these policies step by step.

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