President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to seek a breakthrough in the stalled Aboriginal autonomy bill drafted by the Executive Yuan, while acknowledging challenges in addressing territorial and autonomy issues regarding Aboriginal autonomy.
Promoting Aboriginal autonomy was part of Ma’s campaign platform when he was running for election for his first term in 2008. However, the drafted Aboriginal autonomy act did not pass the legislature last year because of time constraints, and the Executive Yuan is still reviewing the bill.
Aboriginal activists have continued to protest against the bill, which stipulates that Aborigines should establish offices and councils in their respective tribes, but still requires the tribal regions to negotiate with township and county governments before establishing the offices.
Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川), in presenting a report on the challenges over the government’s indigenous policies at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee, expressed concern about the stalled act and urged the administration to address the issue.
“We should face the conflict between the nation’s unity and the collective rights of Aborigines, and solve the issue of Aboriginal autonomy by going beyond the existing laws and administrative framework,” he said.
Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, acknowledged that the government was confronted with difficulties in pushing for Aboriginal autonomy, while defending the government’s efforts to promote Aboriginal rights in political, economic and cultural aspects.
“We are facing more difficulties because issues of territory and autonomy are involved,” he said.
Ma’s stance on Aboriginal autonomy has met with criticism from Aboriginal rights activists as he had told a Central Standing Committee that “ceding territories” to Aborigines to create autonomous regions is not what is best for Aborigines, since it could isolate them.
He yesterday said that promoting Aboriginal autonomy continued to be the goal of his administration and added that he has instructed Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) to meet with Sun in the near future to discuss the issue with an aim to seek a breakthrough in the Aboriginal autonomy issue.