Mon, Jun 12, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Interior ministry continues to limit Aboriginal rights

NO PROGRESS The Council of Indigenous Peoples has been banging its head against a wall in talks over returning land title to Aboriginal owners

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Council of Indigenous Peoples last week discussed with the Ministry of the Interior whether Aborigines should be required to register for property rights in indigenous reservations -- but no consensus was reached.

This was the third meeting on the issue, but the ministry was intent on applying Article 37 of the Mountain Slopes Conservation and Utilization Law (山坡地保育利用條例) to indigenous reservations, council Deputy Minister Sra Kacaw said.

Registration

The article requires Aborigines to register before obtaining cultivation rights, land surface rights and lease rights. After five years, claimants are entitled to gratis ownership, except for land designated for special purposes by the government. Transfer of land ownership is presently limited to between indigenous people.

The council argued that reservation land originally belonged to Aborigines, Kacaw said. He said that the ministry should change its regulations to acknowledge this. Reservations remain national property, Kacaw said.

Teyra Yudaw, chairman of the Truku Self-Government Promotion Commission, said that reservations are meant for Aboriginal people and that full title should therefore be returned to them.

The government said that it wanted to protect Aboriginal land from the encroaching Han population, but such protection has instead turned into limitations on Aboriginal people, he said.

Restrictions

For example, Yudaw said, a development fund the government has earmarked for Aboriginal entrepreneurs to do business within reservations is unfeasible because of the restrictions, he said.

Yudaw said that most banks were unwilling to handle loans from the fund, because they believe that ventures on indigenous reservations would be unprofitable.

The government has also stripped Aborigines of their rights by illegally developing reservation land without their consent, he said.

According to the Aboriginal Basic Law (原住民族基本法) passed last year, state-run and private companies are prohibited from using or developing land belonging to Aborigines without prior consultation, agreement or Aboriginal participation.

However, in the Truku reservation in Hualien County's Hsiulin Township (秀林), a cement factory operated by Asia Cement was built without prior consultation and affected the health of many Aboriginal people, Yudaw said.

Death threats

Asia Cement operatives have threatened to have traditional owners and Aboriginal activists killed because of their continuing campaign against the company's illegal appropriation of Aboriginal land. Asia Cement is part of the Far Eastern Group of companies.

Another example of state exploitation of traditional Aboriginal land is the Taroko National Park, Yudaw said. He said that the government has allowed hotels, restaurants and vendors into places within the park from where Truku villages had been forcibly resettled in decades before.

"The government has not considered the Aborigines at all but instead violated the rights of our people," Yudaw said. "They [the government] should have a conscience and return the land to the rightful Aboriginal owners."

The council said more meetings with the ministry would take place, but there was little optimism that much progress could be made in the near term.

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