Aboriginal rights advocates yesterday protested a proposed amendment to the Mountain Slope Conservation and Utilization Act (山坡地保育利用條例) that seeks to relax restrictions on the transfer of Aboriginal reserve land, worrying it may accelerate the loss of Aboriginal land to non-Aborigines.
The existing law stipulates that, after obtaining ownership of a plot of Aboriginal reserve land, an Aboriginal person is required to hold it for at least five years before it can be sold.
Several Aboriginal lawmakers — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Jeng Tian-tsair (鄭天財) and Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) of the Amis tribe, Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) of the Sediq and Chien Tung-ming (簡東明) of the Paiwan; People First Party Legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二) of the Amis; and Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) of the Atayal — have jointly proposed an amendment to do away with the five-year rule.
“If the amendment is passed, it would accelerate the loss of Aboriginal reserve land, since a lot of Aboriginal reserve land is being occupied by non-Aborigines for developing luxury houses, boutique hotels or resorts,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) told a press conference.
“The restriction should not be relaxed until there’s a way to prevent such a problem occuring,” he said.
Lin Chang-mao (林長茂) of the Green Formosa Front said that in Fusing Township (復興), Taoyuan County, a traditional domain of the Atayals, as much as 70 percent of the land is being used by non-Aborigines.
“At the moment, a private developer is planning a project which would occupy 145.72 hectares of mostly Aboriginal reserve land in Fusing. So far, 60 hectares of land is yet to be acquired due to the five-year rule,” Lin said.
“If the five-year rule is voided, non-Aboriginal developers could get hold of Aboriginal land immediately,” he added.
Jeng, the leading proposer of the amendment, disagreed with the advocates at a separate setting.
“The reason why I’ve proposed the amendment is that I think Aborigines should be given the same right as non-Aborigines when handling their land — if there’s no five-year rule for non-Aborigines, why should owners of Aboriginal land have to wait for five years before being allowed to sell?” Jeng said.
“There’s no need to worry about Aborigines losing their land, because according to the law, ownership of Aboriginal reserve land can only be transferred to another Aborigine,” he added.
He said there were non-Aborigines who would utilize Aboriginal reserve land by using an Aborigine as proxy to buy the land.
“But instead of putting restrictions on Aborigines, the government should go after non-Aborigines engaged in unlawful activities,” he said.