The Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) and the Executive Yuan yesterday pointed fingers at each other over who should shoulder the blame for failing to prevent a fire that killed one person and consumed three homes on Friday night at an Aboriginal village in Hsinchu County.
The affected families are demanding compensation from the government, arguing that it had not put sufficient effort into preventing fires.
At a public hearing held by Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), both government agencies said their hands were tied and blamed low budgets and lack of manpower for the government not living up to its word to boost firefighting capabilities in Aboriginal communities.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) last year said the government would convene a cross-agency committee to solve the problem of insufficient water supply that has been plaguing all 282 Aboriginal villages around the nation.
“Has the premier fulfilled his promise? Has the committee been established? The government is so skilled at making promises, but completely inept in solving problems” said Chin, who is half Atayal.
She panned the government, saying it murdered Chiang Wen-cheng (江文政), the 32 year-old man that died in the blaze.
Chin said the government had done nothing over the last seven years in response to her repeated requests to improve water supplies and firefighting systems for Aboriginal people.
Executive Yuan First Department Director-General Su Yong-fu (蘇永富) admitted the committee had not been established but accused CIP representatives of not submitting a proposal as requested.
The Executive Yuan had repeatedly asked the CIP to submit a proposal detailing the problems and possible solutions, including an itemized list of firefighting equipment, but the CIP had not bothered to comply, he said.
CIP Deputy Chairman Wang Chin-fa (王進發), however, complained of a lack of money and manpower, which had prevented it from fulfilling the administration’s expectations. He said the council would be happy to help the Ministry of the Interior to find out what the communities needed, but added that it lacked the necessary resources to execute the plan.
“The real problem is the CIP. After all these years, what has the council done for Aborigines?” asked Chiang Chao-hsi (江朝西), a representative of Taikan Village (泰崗部落) in Jianshih Township (尖石), speaking on behalf of the victims.
His cousin was the man who died in last week’s fire.
He said that there was only one fire hose in the entire village and it was recently damaged. The village also lacks working infrastructure to help store the water needed for irrigation, firefighting and human use.
“We don’t need a NT$1 billion plan, what we need is a NT$1,260 fire extinguisher for all the 80 households in the village,” said Chiang, adding that it takes more than two hours for the nearest fire department to get a truck to the village because it is so remote.
He said that most of the houses in the densely populated village were made of wood.
During the fire last week, the villagers had to use tap water to try to douse the fire.