Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen assures Aborigines of constitutional support

HUMBLE PIE Aborigines were told that Annette Lu's comments on their history and living circumstances were not representative of society's respect for them

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday appealed to Aboriginal people not to misunderstand the "goodwill" and "unwitting" remarks of Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), while promising to enshrine indigenous rights in the Constitution.

"The Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] government not only respects the contribution of Aboriginal communities but is also prepared to embrace a partnership between it and Aboriginal tribes in a special chapter of our future Constitution," Chen said while addressing a graduation ceremony at the Ketagalan Academy, an institute established by the DPP to nurture leadership.

"It is unnecessary to provoke ethnic conflict or to waste social resources simply because of a misunderstanding caused by somebody with goodwill making an unwitting mistake," Chen said.

Though he did not directly refer to the source of the "unwitting mistake," Chen was apparently referring to Lu, whose recent remarks on Aboriginal history and emigration have angered many Aboriginal people and prompted a hunger strike by two Aboriginal legislators.

In the wake of damage caused by Tropical Storm Mindulle, Lu earlier this week suggested relocating entire villages from central mountain areas to other parts of the country, even suggesting that some people emigrate to Central America.

Lu said she was concerned about protecting the nation's natural resources, particularly in ecologically sensitive mountain areas.

Lu also said that today's Aboriginal tribes are not the original inhabitants of Taiwan. Some Aboriginal groups and politicians attacked Lu for insulting Aboriginal history and discriminating against them.

Facing strong public criticism, a number of DPP legislators have called on Chen to apply damage control.

That process seems to have started yesterday, with Chen put-ting on a show of goodwill to Aboriginal communities in his speech.

"Without the Ketagalan tribe, today there would be no Taipei," Chen said. "And without these Aboriginal tribes, today there would be no Taiwanese."

partnership

Chen said he had consistently wanted to develop a partnership with Aboriginal people, and that this was why he was willing to sign a contract with Aboriginal representatives to establish a "semi state-to-state" relationship which would allow Aboriginal communities to enjoy a degree of autonomy.

"We know that the DPP government's efforts to take care of and improve the welfare of disadvantaged minorities have been inadequate," Chen said.

"I hereby affirm my promise that we will make these reforms concrete next year in our new Constitution, and that there will be a whole chapter devoted to the rights of Aboriginal communities in it."

Meanwhile, Lu's older bro-ther, attorney Lu Chuan-sheng (呂傳勝), said that his sister might not speak cautiously at times, but he stressed that the intention of her remarks was a long way from malicious.

"She endeavors to solve problems but sometimes might hurt people's feelings," he said during a radio interview.

"I will suggest to my sister that she abide by my family's traditional injunctions -- to be generous and always leave room for others," he said.

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