Wed, May 22, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Aborigines call on Chen to follow through

ELECTION PROMISES Taiwan's tribal groups say little has changed since the president pledged to improve their situation two years ago and grant them greater autonomy

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two years ago, when Watan, a member of the Saejiq tribe, paid a visit to his home in Nantou, he noted that his fellow tribal people faced high unemployment and a lack of readily available medical services.

Last week, when he made another visit home, much of what he saw remained the same: "many people in the tribe don't have a job."

Alui, a member of the Paiwan tribe, echoed Watan's remark, adding that when tribal elders need to go to clinics, "they often end up paying more for their taxi ride than for their clinical fee.

"Why? Because clinics are not as available as they are in the city, often forcing tribal people to travel far to get medical service," she said.

Two years into President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) presidency, Watan and Alui say many of the day-to-day issues confronted by Aborigines remain the same.

And they are not alone in their view, as representatives from the nation's 10 recognized tribes on Sunday stood united in reminding Chen to realize his election promise of elevating Aborigines' social welfare.

Held on the eve of Chen's two-year anniversary in office, the 10 Aboriginal representatives on Sunday attended a symposium held jointly by Tsay Chung-han (蔡中涵) of the PFP, Chen Tao-ming (陳道明) of the DPP and independent legislators Walis Pelin and Kao-Chin Su-mei (高金素梅).

The symposium was held to review Chen's performance on Aboriginal welfare.

The 10 recognized Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan are the Atayal, Yami, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Thao, Rukai, Saisiat, Tsou and Amis. The Amis is the nation's largest tribe with 150,000 members. There are approximately 400,000 Aborigines in Taiwan, comprising about 1.65 percent of Taiwan's 23 million people.

Outstanding issues

"After [Chen's] two years in office, issues that have troubled us remain a problem and issues concerning Aboriginal rights and interests remain stagnant as usual," said Chang Cheng-hsin (張正信), a member of the Rukai tribe and former chief of Maolin township, Kaohsiung.

"As far as we can tell," Tsay said, "President Chen has failed to realize most of the promises he made in his 2000 Aboriginal Policy White Paper."

According to Tsay, the White Paper stated that Chen would work to promote Aborigines' rights such as self-government, political participation, development, land ownership, education and social welfare.

"Yet what happened over these past two years was far short of what Chen promised," he added.

For example, Chang said, the Chen administration has failed to keep its word in protecting Aborigines' environment.

According to Chang, the Bureau of Mines, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, had last year granted the mining industry permission to exploit marble resources in Pingtung County's Shiaokuei Lake, a site considered holy ancestral ground by the Rukai tribe.

"And the area nearby it was also designated by the government as a Natural Reservation Zone, which, in other words, has cut off tribal people's livelihoods by banning them from gathering natural resources contained within their ancestral lands," Chang said.

"Based on that, we really don't see how genuine President Chen is about his talk on respecting Aborigines' rights to their land," he said.

Lee Lai-wan (李來旺), a representative from the Amis tribe, said day-to-day issues remain a problem for Aborigines.

Lee said that, compared with the rest of Taiwan, most of the nation's Aborigines continue to suffer high unemployment and lead a hand-to-mouth existence due to their substandard economic status and lower education levels.

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