Lawmakers across party lines yesterday grilled Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Minister Chang Jen-hsiang (章仁香), saying she had failed to achieve anything since taking office in May. Chang, however, defended herself, saying she was doing a good job and working hard.
“It seems like your major policy objective is about creating and protecting employment opportunities for Aborigines. But what about pushing for Aboriginal autonomy as President Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] promised during the presidential campaign?” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) asked Chang after listening to her report at an Internal Administration Committee meeting yesterday.
Chang spent most of the time talking about improving infrastructure in Aboriginal regions and creating employment, and only briefly mentioned that autonomy bills “are still waiting to go through the legislative process.”
In response to Wong, Chang said that “autonomy is the dream of all Aborigines,” but did not give a timeline for when the council would submit any bills on autonomy. “Autonomy is a very complicated issue, and we need to listen more to public opinion and conduct more research on it.”
Wong was not satisfied with Chang’s answer, nor was Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chien Tung-ming (簡東明), of thePaiwan tribe, who expressed disappointment at her report.
KMT Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉), of the Sediq tribe, panned Chang for not defending Aboriginal rights.
“In January, activists staged a protest outside CIP headquarters and threw eggs at the council. It was the first time I ever saw anyone throw eggs at the CIP. Also, 30 Aboriginal township mayors held up banners to protest your presence at a conference at Alishan (阿里山),” Kung said. “Don’t you think there is a gap between what the council does and what people want?”
Kung was referring to a demonstration by about 200 Aborigines from around Taiwan outside the CIP to protest the council’s reluctance in helping Aborigines who had been prosecuted for using their traditional land as permitted by the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法).
He also referred to a demonstration by Aboriginal township mayors earlier this month to demand equal subsidies for forest conservation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal townships.
“I did nothing wrong. You should first see if their demands were reasonable,” Chang said. “If they have any questions, they can always [ask legislators] to tell me during [legislative] committee meetings.”
Kung was also unhappy that the CIP had not submitted any bills to the legislature for review, to which Chang replied that the council was working on several bills.
“[Being the CIP head] is not an easy job, and I’ve worked hard at it,” Chang said.
In related news, the Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the National Park Act (國家公園法) that calls for Aboriginal areas designated as national parks to be managed with respect for the traditional culture and lifestyle of Aborigines.
This amendment would allow Aborigines to conduct rituals, burn grass and trees, set fires for soil preparation, hunt wild animals, pick wild plants and fungi, and conduct other practices forbidden in national parks to perform their cultural activities.
They would however be required to obtain permission in advance from related governmental agencies, it said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN
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