Sun, May 08, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Rights groups call on Tsai to return Aboriginal lands

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Aboriginal rights groups yesterday called on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to move beyond promises of apology and return Aboriginal lands to their owners.

Representatives from the Millet Foundation, Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policy, Indigenous Peoples’ Long Term Care Alliance and several other groups read a declaration out loud in unison, saying that while they welcomed Tsai’s recognition of Aboriginal people as the most important component of Taiwan’s cultural diversity, she needed to do more to recognize the invasion and occupation of Aboriginal lands, as well as stop exploitation and repair damage caused by the government.

The nation must acknowledge Aboriginal sovereignty and pay NT$100 billion (US$3.09 billion) annual compensation, as well as take action to return Aboriginal land, demonstrators said.

They said legal changes are needed to clearly delineate Aboriginal rights, adding that new government bodies are also needed to push forward the restoration of rights and facilitate communication with the government.

This year’s annual budget for the Council of Indigenous Peoples, which draws and executes policies related to Aboriginal communities, is NT$7.48 billion.

“The concept of compensation is crucial,” said Daya Dakasi, a National Chengchi University associate professor of ethnology and a member of the Atayal community, who helped prepare the statement. “Talks of apologies and reconciliation should not just become insignificant slogans. An apology is not real unless you follow through on your promises — you have to pay the price,” Dakasi said.

Tsai has promised to issue an official apology to Aborigines at this year’s Indigenous People’s Day in her official capacity as president.

Indigenous Peoples’ Long Term Care Alliance member Yunaw Sili, also of the Atayal community, said that land rights were crucial to addressing poverty among Aborigines and the breakdown of traditional society, which resulted from governmental “land grabs” during Japanese colonial rule.

The vast majority of lands in which Aborigines reside are national property as a result of Japanese colonial government claiming all lands not covered by formal property deeds.

“Because we have been stripped of land rights, we have not been able to freely develop and cope with difficulties in adjusting to economic development, this has resulted in most young people being forced into cities to look for work, altering the demographics and economy of villages,” he said.

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