Wed, Jun 04, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Aboriginals lukewarm to `menu' for change

BILL OF FAIR The premier says the legislation is a giant leap forward for the rights of the nation's indigenous peoples, but lawmakers are asking ``Where's the beef?''

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Chien-nien, second right -- the chairman of the Executive Yuan's Council of Indigenous People -- dances with aboriginal representatives yesterday after the Cabinet passed a draft bill on Aboriginal rights that would include the right to form autonomous regions.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Executive Yuan yesterday passed a draft bill on the establishment of the Aboriginal autonomous region, but Aboriginal lawmakers expressed lukewarm opinions over the government initiative.

According to the statute on the establishment of the Aboriginal autonomous region, each the nation's 11 Aboriginal tribes would be able to set up a tribal council of their own to be in charge of the establishment of their own autonomous region.

Different Aboriginal tribes could also jointly set up a single autonomous region and one single tribe could set up more than two or more autonomous regions.

The autonomous region would have its own law, land ownership, political structure, economic system, society and culture.

The central government would be able provide financial assistance to those autonomous regions with financial difficulties.

Should there be any disputes between the regions, the central government and the autonomous region or regions in dispute could ask the Legislative Yuan to mediate.

Autonomous regions having disputes could also turn to the Executive Yuan for intervention.

Praising the draft as an important milestone in the government's respect of a multi-ethnic society, Premier Yu Shyi-kun said that the approval of the draft marks one giant step toward the realization of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pledge to Aborigines in the run-up to the presidential election.

On Sept. 10, 1999, Chen signed an agreement with Aboriginal tribes in which he pledged to promote an autonomous region for Aborigines and push for other native rights -- such giving them a say in the use of natural resources, land ownership and the resumption of using the original ethnic names of Aboriginal tribes, rivers and mountains.

Describing the draft as "vague," Aboriginal Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) said that she would not support the Cabinet's bill when it is introduced to the legislature.

"I wouldn't call myself an indigenous person if I supported the draft," she said, adding that she and other independent lawmakers would propose their own version of the bill.

Chin said the Cabinet's approval of the draft was done merely to curry political favor.

"If President Chen really wants to make good on his promise, he should've presented the beef instead of just the menu in which the chef cannot even cook up the order," she said.

Aboriginal Legislator Walis-Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), convener of the legislature's independent alliance, said that although he recognized the government's efforts to approve such a draft, there is still room for improvement.

"Aborigines should have had the right to self govern themselves long time ago," he said.

"Aborigines might be able to preserve their own cultures, languages and traditions, but the draft fails to specifically regulate such controversial issues as land ownership, resources use," Walis-Pelin said.

He also said that he would not support the Cabinet's version in the legislature.

"In the version of the independent alliance, Aborigines should enjoy a high degree of autonomy and the administrative status of the Aboriginal autonomous region should be on a par with that of the Executive Yuan," he said.

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