Fri, Mar 12, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers urge new Aboriginal constituencies

ANACHRONISTIC Seats reserved in the legislature for Aboriginal lawmakers are based on a system from the Qing Dynasty depending on how familiar they were with the Han

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators across party lines yesterday called for redrawing Aboriginal legislative constituencies, saying the current electoral district divisions are a challenge for Aboriginal legislative candidates.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lie Kuen-cheng (賴坤成) and People First Party Legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二) of the Amis made the call with Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Rai Hau-min (賴浩敏) during a meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee.

There are currently three seats in the legislature reserved for “mountain Aborigines” (山地原住民) and three for “plains Aborigines” (平地原住民).

The division is roughly based on the Qing Dynasty’s classification of Aborigines into two groups — shengfan (生番) and shoufan (熟番), depending on how close or familiar they were with the Han immigrants from China — and followed by the Japanese colonial and succeeding governments.

Hence, the Saisiat, who live deep in the mountains in Hsinchu County’s Wufeng Township (五峰) and historically had less contact with the outside world, are legally considered “mountain Aborigines,” while Saisiat living in neighboring Miaoli County’s Nanjhuang Township (南庄), who had more interaction with the Han immigrants, are considered “plains Aborigines.”

On the other hand, Tao, who live on Orchid Island (蘭嶼), are also considered “mountain Aborigines” even though most of them live on flat areas of the small island.

To become a legislator representing Aborigines, a candidate must receive ballots from Aboriginal voters across the country and must also serve constituents across the country once elected.

“It doesn’t make sense that Aboriginal constituencies are created based on ethnic lines, instead of geographic boundaries,” Lie said. “For an Aboriginal lawmaker based in Taitung to serve his or her constituents in Taichung, he or she may have to travel through Taipei since Taichung and Taitung are separated by the Central Mountain Range.”

He suggested that Aboriginal constituencies be divided into northern, central, western, southern and eastern districts.

Lin agreed, saying it was not fair for Aboriginal legislative candidates to be compensated with NT$30 for each vote they get in an election and allowed to campaign only for 10 days like other candidates because Aboriginal candidates need to campaign across the country.

He said the current electoral districts have other problems as well.

“Although I am an Amis, I think it’s unfair that it’s always the Amis who get all the plains Aboriginal seats because we’re the most populous Aboriginal tribe with more than 160,000 people,” he said.

Beside Lin, the other two plains Aboriginal legislators are the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) and Yang Jen-fu (楊仁福) — both of whom are Amis.

“It’s also ridiculous to consider Tao as mountain Aborigines — they are completely unrelated to other Aborigines living in the mountains such as the Paiwan or Atayal. How much do you think a lawmaker of the Paiwan or the Atayal tribe knows about his or her Tao constituents?” Lin said.

In response, Rai said both Lin and Lie’s arguments made sense, but neither he nor the CEC alone could decide whether the system should be changed.

“We have to look more into it and discuss it with other agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior,” he said.

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