A group of young Aborigines yesterday demanded an apology from the Council of Indigenous Peoples for its public announcements downplaying the potential negative effects of the cross-strait service trade agreement on Aborigines’ livelihoods and its attempts to monopolize the information being given to them.
The Aborigines, who since last Saturday have been exchanging opinions and evaluating the influence of the pact, last Sunday requested that the council and Aboriginal legislators explain the potential impacts of the pact on Aborigines.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Liao Kuo-dong (廖國棟) and Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) responded by “partially trumpeting the possible gains for the tourism industry, instead of providing, in consideration of the current state Aboriginal groups face, a comprehensive explanation of how the pact might affect Aborigines,” the group said.
The council issued a press release on Monday asking Aborigines “not to believe in false rumors or participate in illegal activities” and demanded that the announcement be publicly displayed, the group said.
The press release also claimed that the pact “has a trivial impact on blue-collar and nursing jobs,” jobs it apparently believes are performed by many Aborigines.
The group, supported by more than 30 Aboriginal civil and student groups, criticized the council for underestimating the pact’s possible impacts and violating “Aborigines’ right to voice their own opinions and their freedom of speech.”
“Not only could the pact widen the wealth gap, it could also accelerate the loss of traditional Aboriginal lands to corporations and so-called development projects,” student representative Zepulj Kaluvung from the Paiwan people said.
The group also quoted Lin Wen-ling (林文玲), a professor of ethnicity and culture at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences of National Chiao Tung University, as saying that the council has not been paying attention to how to guide Aborigines in their development, especially in nurturing professionals in the cultural industry, “which is what the council should support and pour resources into so that Aborigines can break from their plight of being constrained to the working class.”
Savungaz Valincinan of the Bunun said the council should stop passively reacting to the protests against the pact, hold public hearings so that Aborigines have access to transparent information and stage conferences, attended by experts and Aboriginal representatives, to evaluate the effects of the pact.
“The council should also apologize for its abominable action in attempting to monopolize the information Aborigines receive and for stigmatizing Aborigines’ discussing the pact,” she added.