Wed, Feb 13, 2008 - Page 2 News List

ANALYSIS: KMT urged to pass Aboriginal bill

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although observers and lawmakers hold different views on the future of the Aboriginal autonomy bill, they still hope that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would use its absolute majority to accelerate its passage.

"I'm not too pessimistic about the passage of diversity bills," Tamkang University public administration professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said when asked to discuss the future of such bills.

"In the past, lawmakers could blame the slow progress in adopting the laws on conflict between the pan-green and pan-blue camps -- but now it's all the KMT's responsibility if the bills are again stalled," Shih said.

The KMT won a near three-quarters majority in the legislative election last month.

Shih said that if the legislation is adopted by the KMT-controlled legislature, the party would get the credit for it and may gain more votes in future.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) of the Puyuma tribe, on the other hand, remained suspicious of the KMT's support for the bill.

"The KMT government never made any move toward allowing autonomy for Aborigines during the decades it was in power, so I'm quite skeptical about whether they will really make an effort to pass it," she said.

"Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) is quite close to [KMT presidential candidate] Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九], so maybe he can convince Ma to accelerate the passage," she said.

Kung is a KMT legislator from the Atayal tribe who has also been pushing for Aboriginal autonomy.

The Aboriginal autonomy bill was first drafted and submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review by the Cabinet in 2003, following a promise by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would give the nation's Aborigines autonomous status.

The Cabinet version of the draft bill would allow the nation's Aboriginal tribes to create one or more autonomous regions, according to the geographic location of communities belonging to the same tribe.

The plan stipulates that each Aboriginal autonomous region would be granted the right to make decisions on its political, economic and cultural development, as well as enjoy financial independence.

The bill did not pass the legislative review as lawmakers disagreed on some provisions.

After the bill was returned to the Cabinet, the Cabinet resubmitted another version with minor changes last year. But that draft was again not passed.

Council of Indigenous People minister Icyang Parod told the Taipei Times last week that the council would submit the bill to the new legislature for a third review and urged the KMT to "pass the bill quickly" as there are "no more excuses for its delay."

"The KMT seems to focus more on cultural autonomy, while the DPP cares more about the right to self-determination, which views [autonomous governments] as partners of the central government," Obay a Awi, a Saisiat autonomy activist told the Taipei Times by telephone.

"Ma supports autonomy for Aborigines," Kung said. "But he's been more careful and thinks that it may be better if we can pick one or two tribes to run their autonomous regions on a trial basis to see how it works."

Kung said the DPP leans more toward allowing autonomy to all tribes at once.

"[If] Ma is elected president in March, autonomy for selected tribes on a trial basis may be in place within two years," he said.

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