Wed, Dec 26, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Ma comment sparks Aboriginal fury

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been embroiled in controversy over his recent and allegedly discriminative remarks about the Aborigines of the Amis tribe in the Sijhou Community (溪洲部落), Taipei County.

Ma's comments, which several political observers yesterday described as "dumbfounding," were made on Dec. 8 during a campaign platform presentation in Sindian City (新店), Taipei County, when a Sijhou woman pleaded for "President Ma" to build an embankment to prevent the community's relocation.

"If you come into the city, you are a Taipei citizen; I see you as a human being, I see you as a citizen, and I will educate you well," Ma said, adding: "Aborigines should adjust their mentality -- you come to this place, you have to play by its rules."

The incident was exposed when an anonymous source sent video footage of it to Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) on Saturday.

In response to Ma's comments, Sijhou Community Self-Help Association executive director Osay Saoma told the Taipei Times last night that the Sijhou community felt "humiliated."

"The tribe is not happy. Does [Ma's statement] mean that we were not treated like humans before?" he asked.

More than 200 members of the Sijhou community have resided at their current location at the left bank of the Sindian River (新店溪) for 30 years, but now face relocation since their houses are built on a flood area.

"The Amis people are heroes behind the modern development of cities like Taipei, being migrant workers and joining in its construction taskforce," Saoma said. "But now we are being kicked out of our homes in return."

When approached for his response, Ma's campaign spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) yesterday said the media took Ma's remarks out of context and misinterpreted his meaning.

He disputed Saoma's remarks and said Ma had always been well-received in Aboriginal communities.

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