Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Tsai promises more efforts on Aboriginal rights

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at the opening of this year’s Austronesian Forum at the Grand Hotel in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

As the nation marked Aboriginal Day, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said that the government would carry through its policies to improve Aboriginal rights as she had promised two years ago, while Aboriginal groups called for more progress toward realizing transitional justice.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Austronesian Forum at the Grand Hotel in Taipei, Tsai reviewed the government’s efforts to improve Aboriginal rights since she delivered a landmark apology to Aborigines on Aug. 1, 2016.

Tsai said she understands the distress of Aboriginal peoples resulting from 400 years of suppression and disregard, and knows such feelings cannot be soothed in just two years since the nation began its trek toward transitional justice.

However, change is happening, she said.

Over the past two years, the government has carried out a number of policies that she had pledged to deliver, including establishing the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee under the Presidential Office and a committee for promoting the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法) under the Executive Yuan, Tsai said.

The Judicial Yuan and the Legal Aid Foundation also worked together to establish the Indigenous Legal Service Center, where Aborigines can obtain legal assistance, she added.

Moreover, the Legislative Yuan passed the Aboriginal Language Development Act (原住民族語言發展法), accrediting national language status to a number of Aboriginal languages, she said.

Education is another key area that the government has focused on in promoting transitional justice, Tsai said, adding that the government has established a number of schools exclusively designed for Aboriginal children as part of a pilot program, as every individual has the right to grow up in their native cultural environment.

The Austronesian Forum was founded in 2008 to bring the Austronesian communities, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific region, together to promote human rights and sustainable development, according to its charter.

This year’s event featured 12 members: Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Guam and Hawaii.

Taiwan looks forward to working with the Austronesian community more closely to realize sustainable development and cultivate more talent, Tsai said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Aboriginal congresses — including the Bunun, Rukai, Atayal and Sediq — said that transitional justice for Aborigines has yet to be realized because of flaws in Tsai’s policies.

The Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee, which is essential to promoting justice and equality for Aborigines, has left little room for the direct participation of Aboriginal communities, they said.

It has failed to intervene in important cases of injustices against Aborigines, such as Asia Cement Corp’s (亞泥) controversial mining operations near a Truku community in Hualien County, they said.

A chance for the government to promote transitional justice and protect Aboriginal land rights was lost after the Bureau of Mines announced that the company did not need consent from the Truku and renewed its mining permit for another 20 years without the community’s consent, they said.

As the Asia Cement case showed, the committee was never directly involved in any decisionmaking process on important policies related to Aborigines, but rather consulted after a decision was made and ended up only backing the decision, they said.

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