Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Exclusion of private land from guidelines ‘necessary’

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Temporarily excluding private land from the definition of “traditional areas” would not hinder land recovery, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator-at-large Kolas Yotaka said yesterday, adding that the exclusion is necessary for the establishment of Aboriginal land rights.

“We have to recognize that over the past 400 years, private land has passed through many hands and generations, and there is no harm in pushing forward with the handling of publicly owned land first,” Kolas, an Amis, said at a news conference hosted by Pingtung County Councilor Cemelesai Ljaljegan, a Paiwan.

Kolas said that public land comprise about 90 percent of the officially designated Aboriginal townships, where two-thirds of the nation’s Aborigines reside.

“If the delineation guidelines are passed, we can quickly move to resolve conflicts between Aboriginal communities and the Forestry Bureau and other government agencies,” she said. “The goal is not only to delineate a ‘traditional area,’ but also to gain substantial control over land management and usage.”

Only public land falls under the jurisdiction of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, according to the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), she said.

“The phrase ‘public land’ was not in the original text [of the Basic Act], but was added in 2015 — after progress stalled for 10 years — to ensure that we have a say over a certain area of land,” Kolas said.

If the guidelines are approved, privately controlled land could still be addressed as part of a draft law governing Aboriginal land and sea areas, she said.

The guidelines’ exclusion of private land has been controversial, with many Aboriginal campaigners calling for their inclusion to grant Aboriginal communities veto power over large-scale development projects.

“We think this part of the Basic Act should be parsed differently,” said Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies Association president Oto Micyang, an Amis, adding that the passage should be interpreted as allowing the council to delineate “Aboriginal land and public land around Aboriginal villages” rather than “public land around Aboriginal land and villages.”

“Many villages were moved from their original location since the time of Japanese rule, but even though Aborigines have left their mountain homes, their current land has to be protected to guarantee their culture and way of life,” he said, while questioning whether a law governing Aboriginal land and sea areas would pass.

The DPP is “saying that there will be a new law, but the problem is that the law will be extremely difficult to pass. If it does not pass, our rights will be stuck at this point,” he said.

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