Aboriginal rights activists yesterday called on fellow voters to boycott vote-buying candidates in Saturday’s legislative elections, saying that this and other types of election bribery have seriously damaged Aboriginal culture, autonomy and traditions.
“Vote-buying is so serious in Aboriginal areas that it has become a stumbling block for the Aboriginal elite to move into leadership positions,” Indigenous Peoples’ Action Coalition of Taiwan convener Omi Wilang, an Atayal, told a rally on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
“Each tribe — or even different communities of the same tribe — has a different social structure and chooses its leaders in different ways. However, nowadays only those supported by big corporations or political parties that have money can become leaders in Aboriginal society through elections.”
He urged fellow Aboriginal voters not to waste their vote on candidates who seek to get elected by giving money or gifts, saying: “They are not concerned with the interests of the Aborigines, but only their own.”
“Some candidates may give us NT$1,000 [US$33] for a vote, but when they get elected, they would grab our land for development projects and possibly make NT$10 million out of the deal,” said singer-actress Paicu Yatauyungana of the Tsou tribe, who is better known by her Chinese name Kao Hui-chun (高慧君).
“We’ve staged numerous protests against injustice, but we should stop protesting, because our future is in our hands,” she said.
A documentary filmmaker and an independent candidate for the legislature, Mayaw Biho, an Amis, said that vote-buying is not a traditional Aboriginal practice, “it’s a ‘superior culture’ brought over by the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT].”
“The candidates get funding from big corporations, of course they would listen to these big corporations once they are elected,” Mayaw said. “That’s why the most toxic nuclear waste is stored on Aboriginal land, and so many development projects are going on in Aboriginal domains along the east coast without local residents being consulted in advance, and our Aboriginal lawmakers aren’t saying anything,” Mayaw said.
Omi told the activists that, so far, more than 50 people had been detained, searched or interviewed by the judiciary on suspicion of involvement in vote-buying.
The people in question are campaign staffers of KMT Legislator Chien Tung-ming (簡東明) of the Paiwan tribe, and Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅). Both candidates have denied involvement in vote-buying.