Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Lo Sheng controversy attracts the interestof international group

HUMAN RIGHTS Saying it would present Lo Sheng's case to the UN, a global advocacy group urged the nation to find an honorable solution to the problem

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pamela Parlapiano, left, a representative from the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement, says at a press conference in the legislature yesterday that she will present the case of Lo Sheng Sanatorium to the International Leprosy Congress, which will be held in Hyderabad, India, next year.

PHOTO: SUNG CHIH-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The controversy over the preservation of Lo Sheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium has moved into the international limelight as a global advocacy group for people with Hansen's disease said it would report the case to the UN.

Calling Lo Sheng's predicament an issue that is "important to the whole world," Pamela Parlapiano of the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA), yesterday said she would present the sanatorium's case at the International Leprosy Congress, which will be held in Hyderabad, India, next year, adding that Lo Sheng residents have been invited to attend a panel discussion.

Parlapiano made the remarks at a press conference hosted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Joanna Lei (雷倩) and a local group supporting the preservation of the 70-year-old sanatorium -- home to people with Hansen's disease.

Parlapiano is in the country to observe developments on the Lo Sheng Sanatorium issue on behalf of IDEA, an international organization representing people whose lives have been affected by leprosy. The group represents more than 20,000 Hansen's disease sufferers in more than 30 countries and enjoys consultative status with the UN Human Rights Commission.

A plan to tear down most of Lo Sheng Sanatorium's structure on the 17-hectare site to make room for a Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) depot has met with strong opposition.

Finding a solution

"Taiwan is a very progressive country. Surely there is another answer to this. There should be an honorable way to let leprosy patients live in their homes and to continue the transit system," Parlapiano said.

"This story happens all over the world. People afflicted with leprosy were forced to leave their mothers ... and were put in isolation because of fear and ignorance about the disease," she said. "[But] when the land used to seclude leprosy patients is desirable, they face eviction again."

Parlapiano, however, added that changes were occurring around the world, and some governments had chosen not to evict leprosy patients from sanatoriums or to convert these places into a historical site, a museum or a national park.

She cited the cases of leprosy homes in Hawaii, the UK, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Japan.

Parlapiano presented a letter that IDEA, together with other organizations dedicated to defending the rights of Hansen's disease victims, wrote on March 14 to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the US.

Appeal

"I appeal to Taiwan to also take this tactic, to maintain your dignity and generosity and to show the world how the country can honor the people of Lo Sheng and the people of Taiwan," Parlapiano said.

Two days after Parlapiano arrived in the country, she saw a demonstration calling for the demolition of Lo Sheng Sanatorium as scheduled.

Parlapiano said it was "a sad moment" seeing 6,000 people demonstrating against a small group of people whom they perceive to be "undesirable."

The Taipei County Government on March 16 set an ultimatum for the demolition of more than half of the sanatorium by April 16.

Lo Sheng residents are asking the government to consider an alternative plan which would allow 90 percent of the compound to be preserved.

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