Sat, Jan 21, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Group protests Cabinet’s autonomy bill

UNFAIR:An activist said the proposed bill stipulated that the boundaries of autonomous regions be drawn up along administrative boundaries, rather than by tribes themselves

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

A group of Aboriginal rights activists hold up “wanted” signs for members of the government during a protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Aboriginal groups yesterday staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the Legislative Yuan to protest the Cabinet-proposed Aboriginal autonomy bill, saying it would “kill” autonomy.

“Apparently, the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] is opposed to Aboriginal autonomy and it’s using the so-called ‘autonomy bill’ to kill genuine autonomy,” said Pasang Hsiao (蕭世暉) of the Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies. “The basic principle of the KMT version of autonomy seems to be: ‘I’d give you autonomy, but you cannot do anything unless I approve it.’”

Citing articles from the Cabinet’s version of the proposed autonomy bill, Hsiao said that all laws and decisions made by the autonomous government would be invalid if they were not in accordance with central government laws.

“In the proposed bill, it doesn’t take a court decision to invalidate a decision or laws made by autonomous bodies. Rather, administrative institutions in the central government could overrule everything on their own,” Hsiao said.

In addition, instead of having each Aboriginal tribe initiate autonomous regions and determine boundaries, the bill stipulates that boundaries of autonomous regions are to be decided according to the administrative boundaries of cities and counties.

“This is a complete denial of the democratic process for Aboriginal tribes,” he said.

The group voiced its opposition as the proposed bill was listed on the agenda of yesterday’s provisional legislative session held by the outgoing lawmakers of the Seventh Legislature.

The Eighth Legislature will take its oath of office on Feb. 1.

Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator-elect Chou Ni-an (周倪安) also questioned whether the Seventh Legislature could represent the public’s most recent opinions as many of its lawmakers lost their re-election bids.

“Nearly half — 48 out of 113 lawmakers — lost their re-election bids. This raises questions about their right to call extraordinary sessions,” Chou said.

Omi Wilang, an Atayal and the convener of the Indigenous Peoples’ Action Coalition of Taiwan, agreed, saying: “It’s ridiculous that, on the last day of their term, KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世), who lost his re-election bid, and KMT caucus secretary-general Nancy Chao (趙麗雲), who gave up her bid for re-election, are now calling extraordinary sessions.”

Former Council of Indigenous Peoples head Walis Perin called on Aboriginal voters to call out Aboriginal lawmakers who support the proposed bill.

Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor in the Department of Indigenous Development and Social Works at National Dong Hwa University, said the authors of the bill are working to push for autonomy legislation that gives Aboriginals no real control over their traditional domains.

“The Cabinet-proposed autonomy bill gives Aborigines no control over land and no real power, and it makes a lot of people wonder why,” Shih said. “But if you look at the various development projects along Taiwan’s Pacific Coast, you may understand why.”

Later yesterday, the Aboriginal rights activists cheered upon hearing that the provisional session decided to postpone the review of the bill.

Separately yesterday, environmental protection groups also urged the provisional session not to pass an organic act for the proposed council of ocean affairs, saying the enactment of such a law would go against the government’s promise of establishing a marine department.

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