A group of Amis Aborigines yesterday protested at the government’s seizure of their tribal land, saying the township office had lost relevant documents. They also said they would block the road to the coastal area of the village in protest.
The protesters were from Makutaay, which is administratively known as Gangkou Village (港口), in Fengbin Township (豐濱), Hualien County.
“I grew up in Makutaay and left the village to work after graduating from senior high school. If the government sells our tribal land, where can we go back to?” Lee Chih-hsiung (李志雄), a young man from Makutaay, told a press conference at the legislature yesterday.
“I’m afraid that when I go home, this will no longer be home and we’ll have become tourists in our own village,” he said.
Others shared Lee’s concerns.
“This is a government of bandits, officials are like licensed gangsters,” said Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor in National Dong Hwa University’s department of indigenous development and social works. “The government should always act according to the law, not take the lead in violating the law.”
Participants at the press conference were upset because ownership of the village’s coastal land was transferred from the National Property Administration to the Hualien County Government and the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration Headquarters, and the two agencies are planning to turn the area into a resort, said Lafay, a spokeswoman for the Makutaay Self-Help Organization.
“Those plots of land have been used by Makutaay residents for agricultural activities for generations,” Lafay said. “Now the government is taking them away from us and it’s all because of administrative errors by the [Fengbin] Township Office.”
Unlike other cases of land seizures in which the government takes over private land directly or takes over land seized by the Japanese colonial government, Makutaay residents have tried to register their land as Aboriginal reserve land, Lafay said.
“However, the process could not be completed because the Fengbin Township Office lost the documents,” she said.
Lafay said Makutaay residents attempted to register the plots of land as Aboriginal reserve lands in 1990 with the National Property Administration.
However, in 1993, while a review of the application was underway, the land title was transferred to the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration Headquarters.
“We protested, but the response we received from the township office was that, due to the constant change in staff handling the case and the fact that the documents were not properly transferred, the office could not find documents concerning the applications for registration from 1990 to 1993,” Lafay said. “This is too much. Why are we paying for the government’s errors?”
In a video clip filmed by the organization, Fengbin Township Mayor Liu Ching-fang (劉靜芳) is seen telling Mukutaay residents that as the loss of the documents did not happen during her term, she should not be held responsible.
“We will close off the road leading to the disputed land at 10am on Friday to show that we are in control of our traditional domain,” Lafay said.