Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Lu backtracks on Aboriginal comments

UPROAR The vice president appeared to be trying to bury the hatchet with her vocal opposition critics yesterday, but some people said her words were simply `too little, too late'

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

Aboriginal leaders of the Paiwan tribe yesterday raise their weapons in the air to show their anger at Vice President Annette Lu, demanding that Lu apologize for her discriminatory remarks about Aborigines.

PHOTO: CHEN HSIEN-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) has apparently backtracked on her recent comments yesterday, acknowledging that the Aboriginal people were the first people in Taiwan after activists announced plans for a 3,000-person strong protest scheduled for today on Ketagalan Blvd.

The uproar began after Lu made comments earlier this month saying that Taiwan's Aborigines were not the nation's first inhabitants, and that victims of Tropical Storm Mindulle living in mountainous areas should move to Central America. The statements drew protests from Aboriginal communities and representatives.

Since then, the communities have repeatedly asked Lu to apologize for her remarks and acknowledge that the Aboriginal peoples were the first native people of Taiwan.

Lu has steadfastly refused to apologize, although Chen has asked the Aboriginal community to forgive Lu for her "unintended" words.

In an interview which will be aired tonight at 8pm on the public television station PTS, Lu reiterated her claim that her words were not directed at or intended to harm the Aboriginal people of Taiwan, and thus she has no reason to apologize.

Her refusal has led Aboriginal lawmakers to publicly call into question the commitment of the Chen administration to promoting Aboriginal causes.

Lu did however, seem to be trying to play down the controversy yesterday afternoon by deviating from her steadfast insistence that she was justified in claiming that Taiwan's indigenous people were not the first people to live in Taiwan.

"Among all the people of Taiwan, the Aboriginal people were the earliest people in Taiwan," said Lu yesterday, in response to reporters' questions after exiting the Democratic Progress Party (DPP)'s party development committee's second meeting yesterday afternoon.

Although her words seemed to contradict her original remarks, she repeated her stance that she had done nothing wrong and therefore did not need to apologize, saying her words had been grossly exaggerated and manipulated to sound offensive to the Aboriginal people.

But Lu's comments failed to impress the leaders of the rally scheduled for today, who said that her statement was too little, too late.

"Even though she's finally said that the Aboriginal people are the original people of Taiwan, we still feel that she should give Taiwan's indigenous people a direct and official apology for her actions," said independent legislator and rally deputy commander Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯 貝林) yesterday in a phone interview.

In the absence of the desired apology, the show will go on as planned by the group of lawmakers, Pelin said.

The rally will include all Aboriginal legislators, except the sole Aboriginal DPP legislator, Chen Tao-ming (陳道明).

Warming up for today's demonstration, Aboriginals in eight locations throughout the nation fired off guns and brandished knives yesterday morning to protest Lu's words and to express support for the rally.

While there have been concerns that protesters would bring guns and knives to tomorrow's rally, representatives from the rally and independent Legislator May Chin's (高金素梅) office assured the Taipei Times that only ceremonial knives -- part of the Aborigines traditional costume -- would be allowed. There would be no guns, the representatives said.

Both the Presidential Office and the Council of Indigenous People (CIP) issued statements denouncing the protest.

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