Mon, Jun 29, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Fervor for upgrades will hurt Aborigines

By Pasang Hsiao 蕭世暉

Last Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the upgrading of Taipei County to a municipal city and the mergers of Taichung City and County and Kaohsiung City and County. These new administrative regions will swallow up townships in Taipei County and Taichung County where Atayal Aborigines reside, as well as townships in Kaohsiung County where Rukai, Bunun and southern Tsou Aborigines reside.

By becoming part of the new administrative regions, these townships will lose their ­township-level autonomy and the special protection provided by the self-governance rules they had as Aboriginal townships. Soon, the leaders and officials of these areas will be dominated by the new municipalities, and the Aboriginal townships will be downgraded to satellites dependent on urban development. This will lead to the further disintegration, assimilation and destruction of Aboriginal communities.

As a result of this reckless and rushed change in the local government system, cities and counties are making every effort to be upgraded and obtain greater resources.

The revision of national land planning zones completely disregards the development of future generations and diminishes the significance and value of region, homeland and locality. It increases the risk that communities will become further marginalized and disintegrated by a regional restructuring model that focuses on “urban development” and that it will fall out of balance with the ecological environment. The continuing existence of indigenous peoples, who have long been abused and divided by a system led by the urban areas, will have to face unprecedented challenges and pressures.

The municipal upgrades will mean the end of five Aboriginal townships that will all be transformed into urban districts falling under integrated development and governance systems. Self-awareness in Aboriginal areas has long been weakened, turning Aborigines into a marginalized and subordinate minority dependent on the cities.

The changes to local government expand a system that already abuses and divides Aborigines.

The motherland that all Taiwanese rely on for their existence and the culture they rely on for their development will be terminated by a development model focusing on urbanization and de-Taiwanization.

At the core of the disintegration of Aboriginal society and the marginalization of Aboriginal development is a lack of autonomy — which is essential to tribal development — making it impossible to develop local advantages. Instead, Aborigines will be ruled by others and become subject to outsiders’ goodwill.

They will be doomed to roam the cities while their own land continues to disappear, in the end making them vagrants in their own homeland.

The Aboriginal peoples therefore strongly hope that the government will safeguard Aboriginal autonomy, which is protected by the Constitution and the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法), and which President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised in his white paper on indigenous peoples.

The Local Government Act (地方制度法) fails to promote Aboriginal autonomy, but divides and disbands Aboriginal peoples and their survival space, which is both unconstitutional and illegal. Some groups promoting Aboriginal autonomy have already demanded that the legislature amend the Local Government Act to better protect Aboriginal rights and speed up the passage of an indigenous autonomy act.

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