Ahead of the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for a second term on Sunday, Aborigines yesterday accused Ma of making their lives more miserable and of breaking promises he made to them during his first presidential campaign.
“No to poverty! No to unemployment! Ma Ying-jeou, apologize!” Aboriginal leaders shouted at a news conference held in Taipei, calling on 500,000 Aborigines nationwide to vent their anger at anti-Ma rallies organized by opposition parties and other civic groups this weekend.
“Ma made many beautiful promises to Taiwan’s Aborigines during his 2008 presidential campaign, vowing to make our lives better, but his promises have all been proven to be lies, as his first term as president is ending in a few days [without making good on any of the promises],” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) New Taipei City Councilor Icyang Parod, a member of the Amis tribe and spokesman for the Taiwan Alliance for Monitoring of Aboriginal Policies.
“According to the latest figures released by the Council of -Indigenous Peoples in May last year, 58.2 percent of the country’s Aboriginal population lives under the poverty level, living on less than NT$10,000 [US$338] per month,” he said.
He said that under the former DPP government, the unemployment rate for Aborigines had been as low as 4.27 percent, but that figure had risen to 8.85 percent in September 2009, a little over a year after Ma took office.
Taxi driver Inti Osya of the Amis tribe said that rising prices had caused serious problems for him.
“It is costing me more to drive around everyday as gas prices go up, and I’m getting fewer -customers because people are less willing to take a taxi nowadays as the prices of everything are rising,” he said. “It was already difficult for us taxi drivers to make money, it is getting even harder now.”
While rising utility prices are effecting those who live in cities, it has led to more problems for Aborigines living in the mountains, said Lalin Yumin, an Atayal resident from Hsinchu County’s Wufeng Township (五峰).
“When gas prices go up, the president advises the public to take public transportation — this is a feasible solution for people in the city, but what about Aborigines who live in the mountains without public transportation,” Lalin asked. “I need to go into the mountains to work from my village. Is there any bus that I can take? When I need to deliver the fruit and vegetables that I grow to markets in the cities, the only means of transportation for me is my own truck.”
With fruit and vegetable prices staying low and gas prices going up, “we sometimes don’t make any profit at all selling high-altitude farm produce,” Lalin said.
He said many young Aborigines who cannot find work in cities decide to return to their home villages. However, they are unable to engage in traditional farming or hunting because most Aboriginal traditional domains are now national properties or reserve lands.
The activists also panned Ma for failing to fulfill his promises to grant Aborigines autonomy and to solve the issue of a de facto administrative downgrade when five former Aboriginal townships — the current Taoyuan (桃源), Maolin (茂林) and Namasiya (那瑪夏) districts in Greater Kaohsiung, Heping District (和平) in Greater Taichung and Wulai District (烏來) in New Taipei City (新北市) — became districts in special municipalities.