Sun, Jan 18, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Aborigines say traditional assembly may work better than police processes

BACK TO THE OLD WAYS A tribe’s own probe into a set of alleged crimes produced radically different results than investigations conducted by police and prosecutors

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

After conducting its own investigation, the Saisiat Assembly, along with victims and the accused in a criminal case, yesterday said the case was a scam and accused the police and prosecutors of mishandling the case.

On Dec. 24, Miaoli police said after a month’s investigation it had arrested members of a Saisiat gang in Nanjhuang Township (南庄), Miaoli County, who had allegedly been harassing local Saisiat residents. The police said the victims, including a woman who had allegedly been raped, could not wait to testify against the group, and pleaded with the police to jail them.

The police said the gang, led by two brothers, Chien Yin-fu (錢銀福) and Chien Po-chun (錢伯駿), had committed crimes including rape, robbery and beating innocent people.

Saisiat Assembly Speaker Feng Te-hui (風德輝) told a news conference in Taipei yesterday that he had been shocked to hear the news and quickly asked the assembly to conduct an investigation into the incident.

The result of the tribe’s own investigation was quite different from that of the investigation conducted by the police and prosecutors.

The assembly was an unofficial body consisting of senior Saisiat family clan members elected by all Saisiats last year in a popular vote. In the Saisiat tradition, decisions concerning the tribe are made in a meeting of senior family clan members, and the meeting is presided over by a senior member of the tribe who is respected by all Saisiats.

The structure of the assembly is modeled on the traditional system. Although the tribal assembly has its legal basis in the Aboriginal autonomy bill, it still has no official authority as the bill has yet to be passed.

“Our investigation shows that these so-called ‘victims’ were guided by a person with bad intentions to provide false testimony,” said Obay ‘a Awi, a spokesman for the assembly as he showed an Apple Daily report of the case at the press conference. “We regret that the police and the prosecutor did not really look into the case carefully.”

The victims also appeared at the news conference and admitted they gave false testimony.

“I was told to say that a rape occurred, while it actually did not,” said Chu Hui-lien (朱惠蓮), who accused the gangsters of raping her.

“Chung Yu-chung [鍾玉忠] told me to testify against the Chien brothers and promised to give me some money once they were indicted,” said Feng Ching-chung (風慶忠), another “victim” who testified.

Wumao Wasi, another spokesman for the Saisiat Assembly, said that their own investigation found that Chung had intentionally set up the Chien brothers because of some prior personal issues between them.

While the case is still in the legal process, Obay said that it showed that the traditional Saisiat judiciary system still works and sometimes could work better than the judiciary.

“The ‘victims’ finally admited that they lied when we tried to investigate the case in the traditional way — having elders of the involved family clans resolve it under the witness of a commonly respected elder,” Obay said. “This traditional mechanism will be important once Aboriginal autonomy is in place.”

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