A proposed Aboriginal autonomy bill yesterday passed an initial review at the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee despite differences over many issues between the government and Aboriginal lawmakers.
From the beginning of the meeting, Aboriginal lawmakers had many disagreements on the division of power for future Aboriginal autonomous regions. Lawmakers, Ministry of the Interior Deputy Minister Lin Tzu-ling (林慈玲) and Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) had a heated debate over whether the ministry should have the power to approve the use and management of natural resources in national parks within Aboriginal autonomous regions.
According to the version of the bill proposed by the Executive Yuan, clauses “of the autonomy bill involving the use and management of natural resources within the boundaries of national parks should be reported to the ministry and publicized only after the ministry has approved it following consultation with relevant government agencies.”
“This is unacceptable. [National parks] should be co--managed [by autonomous regions and relevant government agencies],” Non--Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), who is half Atayal, said after Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩), of the Puyuma tribe, called for the clause to be deleted.
“This is against the Aboriginal Basic Act (原住民族基本法), which does not stipulate anything to be subject to ministry approval,” Chin said.
However, Lin said certain red lines existed, adding that national parks and natural resources belong to everyone in the country.
The remark drew criticism from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉), a Sediq.
“The power to decide must be in the hands of the autonomous regions. The Aboriginal Basic Act has a higher status” than the National Park Act (國家公園法), Kung said.
Chin said the Aboriginal Basic Act had the status of a quasi-constitution.
“Article 20 of the law says Aboriginals have the right to manage natural resources in their traditional domains. So why would we need to report to the ministry?” Chin asked.
Although charged with defending Aboriginal rights, Sun said he supported Lin’s views and said the committee should submit the disputed clause to cross-party negotiations.
That suggestion was turned down and at the insistence of Aboriginal lawmakers across party lines, the clause was deleted.
Also deleted was a clause in Article 24 of the proposed bill, which said that certain central government agencies could avoid having to obtain the consent of Aborigines as stipulated in the Aboriginal Basic Act if they sought to use mining, water or other natural resources “based on the national interest.”
Although the bill passed an initial review, there was no consensus on many issues, including the administrative division of autonomous regions. Such disputed issues remain unresolved and will be discussed in future cross-party negotiations.