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Thu, Jul 13, 2000 - Page 3 News List

New bill aims to help Aboriginals

By Chuang Chi-Ting  /  STAFF REPORTER

A joint committee in the Legislative Yuan yesterday passed a draft of the bill for the Protection of Aborigines' Working Rights to try to address the problem of high unemployment among Taiwan's indigenous people.

Aboriginal unemployment has reached 7.55 percent, which is three times the average for Han people. However, some expressed pessimism about the effectiveness of the bill.

The bill stipulates a fixed ratio for the employment of Aboriginals in both the public and private sectors. It also urges improving their vocational training.

In addition, the bill brings in a plan to help indigenous people handle labor disputes with a new arbitration process.

The bill also gives priority to indigenous people in competing for public contracts in the areas where they live. Aboriginal cooperative societies will also not be taxed for six years following the passage of the bill.

Yohani Isqaqavut (尤哈尼*伊斯卡卡夫特), Council of Aboriginal Affairs chairman, said that the bill was very significant.

Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯*貝林), an Aboriginal legislator, said that one major reason behind the high level of Aboriginal unemployment was the lack of vocational training, and said that training centers with programs specifically focusing on the needs of his people, as indicated in the bill, would be helpful.

"We need more than just training in how to be car mechanics. We want programs that fit our special circumstances, such as those that teach us how to be tour guides and wardens in the national parks that are on our land." said Walis Pelin.

Isak Afo (以撒克*阿父), convener of the League of Aboriginal Labor, agreed.

He said that the government has always tried to drag indigenous people to the cities with training programs better suited for Han people, "but we need programs that make our jobs associate more with the land, so we can preserve our culture," he said.

Isak Afo further pointed out that Aborigines deserve a more comprehensive and much clearer national policy to improve their overall situation, rather than just a bill.

Without such a policy, Isak Afo said, due to poor access to education and the law, even though the bill guarantees certain "privileges" for indigenous people, exploitation from Han people that are more competent in managing cooperative societies and undertaking government projects would be inevitable.

"Indigenous people currently have no control over 95 percent of their existing labor cooperative societies," said Isak Afo.

Meanwhile, the bill suggests a process of arbitration for Aboriginal pay disputes that includes more indigenous mediators, which Aboriginal lawmaker Tsay Chung-han (蔡中涵) was greatly excited about saying, "now there's no chance for us to lose."

Isak Afo nevertheless said that due to a lack of awareness about their rights and limited legal access, indigenous people may not necessarily benefit from such a proposal in the bill.

Boris Voyer, an international indigenous rights activist pointed out that lawyers in the tribes are especially rare because "the Han people want to manipulate the Aborigines."

Both Isak Afo and Voyer pointed out that promoting legal access and relevant education is indispensable to effectively improving Aboriginal working rights.

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