Sat, Sep 04, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Indigenous peoples council opposes agencies merger

PROPOSED AMENDMENT Aboriginal issues will be marginalized if the aboriginal council is merged with groups representing Hakkas and others, the council said

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Absorbing the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) into a larger entity would be a serious breach in the administration's promises to Aboriginals and a step backwards in ethnic policy, the CIP said Tuesday night in a statement.

The group was responding to potential amendments to the Organic Law of the Executive Yuan (行政院組織法), which propose merging the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, the Council of Hakka Affairs and the Council of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs into a single ethnic equality commission.

The CIP's contributions are such, the statement said, that the government should be considering elevating its status to a ministry, instead of its abolishment.

The amendments are being considered because of the passage of the Standard Organic Law of Central Government Agencies (中央政府機關組織基準法) in June. The new law limits the number of Cabinet ministries to 13, the number of commissions to four and independent institutions to five -- a total of 22 agencies, compared to the current 35.

According to the statement, since the council's formation it has not only increased the govern-ment's ability to tackle Aboriginal issues, but has also fulfilled the wishes of Taiwan's indigenous people by giving them a real opportunity to participate in national policy-making.

If the council is abolished, Aboriginal issues will be marginalized and the political influence of Aborigines weakened, leading ultimately to assimilation for the ethnic group, the CIP said.

Throughout the statement, the CIP appealed to the government to remember President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) campaign promises to establish "semi-nation-to-nation" relations with Taiwan's Aboriginal people and including a special chapter to address Aboriginal issues in the new constitution Chen has proposed.

"If the government pushes through the amendments as planned ? President Chen's campaign promises will definitely fall short. There will be serious harm done to the administration's credibility," read the statement.

During a telephone interview, Aboriginal Legislator Walis Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林) added his opinion to the council's.

"Combining the CIP with the Council of Hakka Affairs is a very strange idea and does not show respect for Aboriginal people," Walis said yesterday.

The CIP is already overburdened and underfunded, since everything related to Aboriginals, from land rights to education, is thrown at it, he said.

The Aboriginal people's position can only get worse if the CIP's duties end up being handled by a broader entity, Walis said.

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