Thu, Dec 23, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Aborigines protest township losses

‘MA’S CHRISTMAS GIFT’:Activists say the downgrading of Aboriginal townships to city districts without elected mayors or councils violates Aborigines’ right to self-determination

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Aboriginal and human rights activists yesterday protested the abolition of Aboriginal townships in counties to be administratively upgraded to special municipalities on Saturday, urging legal revisions to allow them to maintain their autonomous status.

“This is not our first time here, we’ve been here several times, making the same demands over and over, and received promise after promise from the government,” Aboriginal Action Alliance Convener Lituan Takelutuen told a press conference held at the Legislative Yuan.

“But we’ve never seen the government take any actual measures in response to our demands,” he said. “Hence, we’re here to condemn the government.”

Lituan was referring to the downgrading of Aboriginal townships to city districts when Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung counties become special municipalities on Saturday.

At present, Wulai Township (烏來) in Taipei County and -Heping Township (和平) in Taichung County, as well as Namasiya (那瑪夏), Maolin (茂林) and Taoyuan (桃源) townships in Kaohsiung County, are designated as “mountain Aboriginal townships” with elected councils and mayors — and mayoral seats in mountain Aboriginal townships can only be served by “mountain Aborigines.”

However, when these townships become districts in new special municipalities, district chiefs are to be appointed by the mayor, with no prerequisites.

“President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) gave the five mountain Aboriginal townships the loss of local autonomous status as a Christmas gift,” said former Examination Yuan member Iban Nokan, who is an Atayal.

Iban said he could not accept the Ministry of the Interior’s response to their protest that the rights of residents in mountain Aboriginal townships “would not be compromised due to the change.”

“This is very irresponsible, and is not true at all,” Iban said. “I can’t believe this would appear in an official letter issued by the ministry.”

Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) called it a serious violation of human rights.

Tsai noted that the legislature has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights last year, and adopted a law to give these two covenants the status of domestic laws last year.

“The first article [of the ICCPR] states that ‘all peoples have the right of self-determination,’ but what the government is doing is just the opposite,” Tsai said. “If the government fails to respond positively to Aborigines’ demands, we will contact relevant international bodies or individuals, such as the UN special rapporteur on indigenous rights James Anaya, to investigate into the issue.”

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