Thu, Aug 02, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Austronesian Forum begins operations in Taipei

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

An Aboriginal tribe performs a traditional dance at the inauguration of the Preparatory Office of the Austronesian Forum yesterday in Taipei. Representatives from the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and the Philippines attended the ceremony.

PHOTO: WALLY SANTANA, AP

To enhance cooperation among Austronesian countries, the Austronesian Forum was inaugurated yesterday in Taipei by representatives from eight countries in the Pacific region.

The idea for an Austronesian Forum arose last year when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) met six leaders from the nation's Pacific allies during a summit in Palau.

After the meeting, the seven leaders signed the Palau Declaration, calling for "cooperation in the areas of capacity building, economic, social and cultural developments to strengthen the democratic Pacific alliance and to build a full-scope partnership," Chen told the audience at the inauguration of the preparatory forum yesterday.

"The inauguration of the preparatory office of the Austronesian Forum is a fulfillment of the promise made in the Palau Declaration," he said.

In addition to the seven signatories to the declaration -- Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Palau and Taiwan -- the Philippines has joined the preparatory committee.

The president and other guests embraced the cultural ties among Austronesian countries.

"Aborigines in Taiwan are a branch of the Austronesian family. Studies by various academics even conclude that Taiwan may be the place where all Austronesian peoples originated," Chen said.

"Austronesian peoples in Taiwan are not only part of Taiwanese culture, but are also an irreplaceable member of the Austronesian family in the Pacific region," he said.

Marshall Islands Minister of the Interior Rien Morries agreed.

"Our culture has connected us from thousands of years ago ... this is our culture, it belongs only and exclusively to us, the Austronesian peoples, and to nobody else," he said.

A draft Austronesian Forum charter was passed by the forum's preparatory committee during a meeting on Tuesday, Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod said.

The charter will become effective after each member state has approved it, on Aug. 31 at the latest, Icyang said.

He said that the forum would likely begin official operations next year.

Priority issues that the forum will turn to in its initial stage include language preservation and land and economic development, Icyang said.

"We will also seek to register Taiwan as the origin of Austronesian peoples with UNESCO," Icyang said.

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