Aboriginal activists yesterday called for the implementation of anti-discrimination laws and an education curriculum that teaches children about multiculturalism from an early age, saying they have been struggling with sustained discrimination by officials and other individuals.
Earlier this month, the Straits Exchange Foundation was criticized for a commercial that used the word “Pa-nga” — an Amis word meaning “penis” — to refer to Aborigines. On the same day, the Taoyuan County Police Department apologized to Aborigines after a police officer in Dasi Township (大溪) called an Aboriginal man a “bloody savage” following a dispute.
Such incidents show that the government’s repeated calls for respect and multiculturalism are failing, Namoh Nofu Pacidal, spokesman for the Amis Defense Alliance, told a press conference in Taipei.
“It’s not just ordinary individuals and low-level police officers who make such discriminatory remarks. Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien also made a comment last year that ‘Han’ people are smarter [than Aborigines], while President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has condescendingly said that he regards Aborigines ‘as human beings,’” Pacidal said.
“No one has been significantly reprimanded for making such comments in public. This shows that mainstream public opinion does not see this as a serious matter — it’s scary,” Pacidal said.
Wang made the remark during a press conference on the protection of human rights last year while attempting to explain why Aborigines were in a more disadvantaged position in society.
Ma made his remark when faced with Amis Aborigines protesting over the forced eviction of riverside Amis communities in what was then Taipei County during his presidential election campaign in 2007. Ma said that although he regarded Aborigines as “human beings” and would provide education and other opportunities for them, they would have to follow the local government’s regulations.
Pacidal called for the legislature to pass anti-discrimination laws that would penalize such discriminatory remarks.
In addition to enacting a law, Pacidal said education was very important, as most people discriminate out of ignorance.
“The government and the public tend to build one cultural identity — whether it’s China-centric or Hoklo-centric — for a country that’s actually quite diverse in its culture and ethnicities,” he said. “We need to teach our children about multiculturalism from an early age.”
Also at the press conference was Paicu Yatauyungana of the Tsou tribe, better known by her Chinese name Kao Hui-chun (高慧君), who was a popular singer before she officially changed her name back to the Tsou original and joined the Aboriginal rights movement a few years ago.
“Sometimes I feel ashamed to call Taiwan a democracy because of the lack of respect for diversity,” she said. “Anti-discriminatory laws should be the last resort; public awareness through education is more important.”
Hopefully, one day Aborigines will not just be called Aborigines as if they were all from one single tribe, she said.
“I hope my children or your children will be able to identify that this woman is a Tsou and that man is an Amis,” she said.