The government will officially apologize to Aborigines for past misconduct and establish a new partnership with the original residents of Taiwan if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returns to power next year, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday.
“I’m here at Wushe Incident Memorial Park [in Nantou County] to pay tribute to our hero Mona Rudao as well as others who perished [in the incident] in memory of Aborigines’ suffering from unfair treatment and humiliation for hundreds of years,” Tsai said in Wushe (霧社), a symbolic location for Aborigines.
In 1930, thousands of Aborigines led by chief Mona Rudao launched the biggest — and last — rebellion, which later came to be known as the Wushe Incident (霧社事件), against Japanese colonial forces in Taiwan, resulting in a massacre of both Japanese and members of the Seediq tribe.
“The DPP pledges that, if we win the presidential election next year, the new president will officially apologize to Aborigines and will establish a new partnership to work toward cultural diversity,” DPP presidential candidate Tsai said.
The dire situation facing Aborigines in Taiwan should be dealt with seriously, she said.
Aborigines were referred to by many discriminatory names, including “mountain people,” until the government officially recognized them as Aborigines on Aug. 1, 1994, she said, adding that the DPP designated Aug. 1 National Aborigines Day in 2005 when it was in power.
However, the DPP did not do enough when it was in office, she said, adding that future policies should be formulated with the idea of a “partnership” between the government and Aborigines in mind and respect for their unique culture and way of life.
Expressing regret would be an important step toward reconciliation, she said, adding that Taiwan would learn from the experiences of Australia and Canada.
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both apologized to Aborigines for their governments’ past policies of discrimination and assimilation.
If elected, Tsai said, she would do the same.
Tsai also criticized President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) proposal for an Aboriginal autonomy act that does not grant Aborigines the right to control their finances, land and judiciary.
In Taipei, the DPP accused Ma of failing to deliver on the -majority of his campaign pledges to Aborigines.
DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said Ma had managed to achieve only about 10 percent of his campaign pledges on -Aborigine-related issues.
At an annual Aborigine conference held by the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) yesterday morning, Ma said Aborigines were the oldest residents in Taiwan, adding that despite making up only 2 percent of Taiwan’s population, they should not be ignored by the government.
Ma proposed new courses to teach students about Aboriginal culture during winter and summer vacations. He proposed a “third semester” program during the vacation periods for junior and senior high school students that would focus on Aboriginal topics.
Although the nation’s 490,000 Aborigines do not make up a huge portion of Taiwan’s population, they are vital to Taiwan’s culture because they have developed rich traditions over the years, he said.
Ma also said the program should not exclude other people.
Interaction between ethnic groups helps with social integration and leads to a harmonious future, he said.