Legislative review of historical justice legislation for Aboriginal groups was put on hold yesterday, as legislative tussling over a proposed transitional justice bill aimed at Martial Law-era abuses continued.
The Democratic Progressive Party-majority Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee passed a motion to adjourn ahead of schedule early yesterday afternoon, preventing the commencement of a line-by-line review of draft legislation to investigate and remedy historical injustices suffered by Aborigines, after DPP legislators called for additional hearings, citing differences between “historical justice” and the “transitional justice” on which five hearings have already been held.
“Historical justice and transitional justice are two separate areas,” said DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), who sponsored the adjournment motion, while promising that the DPP would fully address both issues.
Transitional justice targeting human rights abuses suffered under the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian rule has been one of the most contentious issues of the current legislative session, with KMT lawmakers contending that their party has been unfairly targeted and calling for the inclusion of justice for Aborigines in the draft legislation.
“The problems of Aborigines should be defined as ‘historical justice’ because the issue spans so many historical regimes,” DPP Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) said, defining “transitional justice” as remedying injustices suffered by individuals under a single authoritarian regime.
“Justice for Aborigines has to address a large number of questions, and the perpetrator of the injustices keeps changing over time,” he said.
However, “pan-blue” Aboriginal legislators questioned the sincerity and resolve of DPP promises to address Aboriginal justice issues.
Non-partisan Solidarity Union Legislator May Chin (高金素梅), who is half-Atayal and represents an Aboriginal constituency, said that failure to begin substantive review showed that the committee’s coconvener, Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), had been “playing games” with promises to begin review of Aboriginal justice legislation this legislative session, after excluding bills with Aboriginal justice provisions from review of the DPP caucus’ transitional justice bill last week.
KMT Legislator Sra Kacaw said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had used the term “transitional justice” to address Aboriginal justice issues in her campaign white paper on Aboriginal policy, adding that the expected establishment of an Aboriginal truth and reconciliation committee within the Presidential Office in August would be meaningful only with the passage of legislation to empower it.
“Only with the passage of legislation will the committee have power — by not beginning the review today, we ensure that it will only be consultative in nature,” he said.
Because the current legislative session is scheduled to expire on July 15, yesterday’s agreement to hold further hearings will likely push any substantial review or passage into the fall session.
DPP Legislator Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said that his party wanted to wait for the establishment of the Presidential Office committee to give more prominence to the issue, and the proposed committee could already be fully empowered with existing Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法) provisions.
“Using a new law to establish an unnecessary committee will not help the drive to fully implement the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act,” he said, adding that the DPP was willing to amend draft transitional justice legislation to guarantee at least one Aboriginal representative on the committee, which will investigate Martial Law-era human rights abuses.
“The Basic Law is the Basic Law — Aboriginal justice bills are different because they are focused on exposing the truth about historical injustices, assigning responsibility and awarding compensation,” New Power Party (NPP) Legislator-at-large Kawlo Iyun Pacidal said.
The Indigenous Peoples Basic Act provisions focus on guaranteeing Aborigines’ rights to survive and develop, rather than remedying past injustices, she said.
NPP Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) questioned the need to hold more than one hearing on Aboriginal justice legislation because of the inclusion of the issue in previous hearings on transitional justice.
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