Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Panai Kusui says nation’s Aborigines are without hope

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Panai Kusui sings on April 10 during the long-running Aboriginal land rights protest on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

Amis singer Panai Kusui yesterday said at a protest against the extension of Asia Cement Corp’s mining rights that the nation’s Aborigines have no hope, accusing the government of being insincere in its vow to protect Aboriginal land from exploitation.

Following a protest at the Executive Yuan in Taipei on Monday, environmental groups yesterday gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan to raise concerns about what they called an illegal extension of Asia Cement’s mining rights approved on March 14.

They urged lawmakers to review 13 proposed amendments to the Mining Act (礦業法) in the current extraordinary legislative session.

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) on Tuesday last week instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs to explain within one week how the decision was made to extend Asia Cement’s permits, saying the amendments would be reviewed in the next legislative session in September.

On Monday, the ministry said that its extension approval was not illegal.

In previous protests, the groups had cited Article 21 of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法), which stipulates that development on Aboriginal land must be approved by the communities that would be affected.

However, the ministry said that the article did not apply to the extension of mining rights, citing a conclusion reached by the Executive Yuan in a meeting on Nov. 7 last year.

Panai, who has spent the past 118 days camped on Ketagalan Boulevard to protest regulations relating to Aboriginal land, said the government has repeatedly deceived Aborigines over the Asia Cement case.

“This generation of Aborigines is without hope, because the nation uses laws to persecute us time and again,” she said.

“Are the laws really aimed at protecting people?” she asked. “How can ministers without portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) and Lin Wan-i (林萬億) forcefully deprive us of our rights?”

Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association lawyer Hsieh Meng-yu (謝孟羽) said the ministry was distorting the law, citing its position that “land development activity” defined in the Geology Act (地質法) does not include the extension of mining rights.

The association has helped a few Aborigines reacquire their land from Asia Cement, Hsieh said, but added that they are still unable to use their land.

As Article 47 of the Mining Act enables companies to take pre-emptive action, “only when those people saw the [news on] TV did they know their lands were to be exploited by Asia Cement for another 20 years,” he said.

Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan researcher Pan Cheng-cheng (潘正正) said there are 188 active mines nationwide, but only 25 of them have been subject to environmental impact assessments.

Asia Cement’s mining activity in Hualien County’s Sincheng Township (新城) has come under renewed public criticism after aerial footage by filmmaker Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) appeared to show that the company had expanded its operations at the site, even though the firm said it had reduced them.

Chi died in a helicopter crash in Hualien on June 10 while filming a sequel to his documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (看見台灣).

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