Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Protesters slam road repair ban

ROAD RAGE Protesters threatened with `extreme measures' if the Executive Yuan passes a draft bill which would halt repairs to roads in certain Aboriginal townships

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Aborigines from central Taiwan protest outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday demanding that the government repair mountain roads used for transporting produce after the roads were destroyed by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Mindulle.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Threatening with "extreme measures" should the Executive Yuan fail to heed their demands, over 1,500 Aborigines gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to protest a draft bill that would halt the repair and construction of roads in mountainous areas.

A tense atmosphere hung over the protest throughout the afternoon, with protesters getting increasingly agitated, despite protest organizers' pleas for calm.

Several protesters scuffled with police around 3pm when they were prevented from marching to the Executive Yuan. One policeman was injured in the scuffle.

Nantou County councilor Hsieh Wang-shan (謝汪汕), one of the event's organizers, said "extreme action" would be taken if the Executive Yuan does not deal with the protesters' demands in a satisfactory manner.

Led by Aboriginal lawmakers Hsieh, May Chin (高金素梅), Walis-Pelin (瓦歷斯貝林), Lin Chung-te (林春德) and Lushan Ashan (雲天寶), Atayal Aboriginals from townships in northern and central Taiwan yesterday marched from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taipei to the Legislative Yuan to call on the Executive Yuan to reconsider a draft bill which would halt repairs to roads in certain Aboriginal townships located in typhoon disaster areas.

Yelling slogans such as "Premier Yu Shyi-kun, come out" and "[Council of Indigenous Peoples] Chairman Chen Chien-nien [陳建年], come out," the Aboriginals marched toward the Executive Yuan around noon yesterday, demanding that the Executive Yuan send out a high-ranking representative to sign a written agreement to reconsider the bill.

Although the protesters originally planned to camp out in front of the Executive Yuan, they were forced to camp in front of the Legislative Yuan's Chi-nan Road entrance, because the organizers had only been able to get a permit to gather at the legislature.

Yesterday's rally was a continuation of the Aboriginal lawmakers' protest against a draft bill on land restoration and conservation (國土復育特別條例). The Council for Economic Planning and Development's (CEPD) special bill aims to ban land development, road construction or repair, farming and residence in certain areas in view of the destruction caused by this summer's natural disasters.

Dubbed the "genocide bill" by Chin when she led a similar protest to the Executive Yuan on Oct. 19 with Walis, the bill's provision banning construction and repair of roads in areas with fewer than 30 households cut off lifelines for many Aboriginal villages, Chin said yesterday.

"Just because a village has less than 30 households does not mean that its residents are not people," said Chin yesterday to protesters outside the Legislative Yuan.

While CEPD chairman Hu Sheng-cheng (胡勝正) promised protesters that the CEPD would consider Aboriginal concerns in the bill's construction at the Oct. 19 protest, organizers said that they decided to march yesterday because they were running out of time.

"Harvesting time is coming for a lot of these villages affected by the bill. We need to have the roads repaired now," Lushan said yesterday, adding that the Executive Yuan has in effect already promulgated the draft bill by delaying reconstruction of roads identified by the bill.

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