The Taipei High Administrative Court yesterday denied Aboriginal status to the Siraya people of the Pingpu Aborigines.
Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said he regretted the decision and called on the incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to back the Siraya’s cause.
The ruling was in favor of the stance and policies of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, and against the plaintiffs — Siraya rights campaigners and organizations whose home communities are in Tainan and other areas in the south — who filed an administrative lawsuit in 2010 and have since appealed lower court rulings.
“We are disheartened to once again hear that the court has sided with the government and rejected our rightful request for Aboriginal recognition. Our fight to gain the restoration of our Aboriginal status has taken more than two decades,” Tainan Siraya Culture Association secretary-general Uma Talavan said. “Justice was not served with this ruling, but we will carry on with the campaign to fight for Aboriginal status for the Siraya people.”
Talavan urged the public to support the campaign because it would restore the historic rights of one of the original communities in Taiwan, saying that they had Aboriginal status under the Japanese colonial administration, but the status was removed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime in the 1950s and they have been excluded from the political system ever since.
Siraya campaigners pledged to appeal to the Council of Grand Justices for a constitutional interpretation.
Lai, a DPP member, has given his full backing to efforts by the Siraya to gain recognition, with Tainan granting them Aborginal status at the municipal level. Almost all other county and municipal governments refuse to recognize Pingpu Aboriginal groups.
“We regret the court’s ruling and will support the cause all the way to make an appeal. This shows that the Siraya are still being excluded by the nation’s laws,” Lai said.
He called on fellow DPP officials to support the cause.
“The DPP government will be in power soon and it should help the Siraya gain Aboriginal status. This was among one of president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) platform policies on Aboriginal communities during her election campaign,” he said. “We hope the incoming government uses its executive power to reach this objective and finish the judicial procedures so that the Siraya can gain Aboriginal status.”
Siraya are among the 10 Pingpu Aboriginal communities, also known as lowland plains Aborigines, who are the original Austronesian people of the island, but have been denied recognition by successive KMT governments.
The other Pingpu groups living in rural areas in clan-based village communities are the Babuza, Hoanya, Kaxabu, Ketagalan, Makatao, Pazeh, Papora, Taokas and Tavorlong.