The Cabinet approved a bill yesterday entitling the nation's 13 Aboriginal tribes to autonomy through negotiations with county governments.
"Should the bill pass the legislature, Aboriginal people could obtain autonomy either on a tribe-by-tribe basis or with other tribes, and county governments would be required to talk with them about the matter," Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod said.
"For example, the Pingtung and Taitung County governments have to agree that the Paiwan people living in their eight townships and four townships respectively could become autonomous," he said.
The government officially recognizes 13 tribes among the indigenous community, although other Aboriginal tribes continue to seek recognition.
The majority of the nation's 400,000 Aborigines live mainly in 55 townships.
As the bill stipulates that Aboriginal autonomous areas would enjoy administrative status equal to that of a county, any dispute between the autonomous regions and county governments would be referred to the Cabinet for settlement, Icyang said.
If disputes remain unsolved after mediation by the Cabinet, the bill requires presidential intervention, he said.
"The dispute settlement mechanism proposed in the bill reflects, to some extent, the pledge President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) made in 2000 that the relationship between Aborigines and the government is a quasi state-to-state relationship," Icyang said.
The minister said one item had failed to be included in the bill -- the establishment of nationwide Aboriginal autonomy. He did not elaborate.
This marked the second time the Democratic Progressive Party government had proposed such a bill since coming to office in 2000. The previous bill, sent for review in 2003, is still pending in the legislature.
Icyang said the position political parties take on the bill will be crucial to its implementation.
A report reviewing the nation's implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN in September was submitted to the Cabinet yesterday.
The council concluded that 90 percent of the UN declaration had been incorporated in related bills, despite some of them being stuck in the legislature, Icyang said.