Wed, Feb 27, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Siraya leaders tell court that council is denying recognition

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Representatives of the Siraya community rally outside the Taipei branch of the High Administrative Court yesterday.

Photo: Wen Yu-te, Taipei Times

Leaders of Siraya communities yesterday told the Taipei High Administrative Court that the Council of Indigenous Peoples was working to deny recognition of their people and refusing to grant them indigenous status.

Council-appointed lawyer Chen Ching-wei (陳敬暐) said the Siraya people do not meet the requirements to have indigenous status, citing provisions of the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples (原住民身分法).

The act and its amendments were designed to protect the rights of specific groups and provide state resources to recognized communities.

Tainan Siraya Culture Association secretary-general Uma Talavan (萬淑娟) said that when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) issued her historic official apology to all of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples on Aug. 1, 2016, she promised to recognize Pingpu Aboriginal groups and include them as indigenous peoples under the council.

Uma appealed to Tsai to keep her promise, saying that council officials have continued to deny the Siraya indigenous status and exclude them from the council, countering the president’s stated policy in breach of the Constitution.

Uma and more than 300 registered Siraya descendants in 2015 filed the lawsuit to obtain indigenous status, saying that the council’s actions to deny their recognition violated their rights, as it is not for the government to define indigenous peoples.

In doing so, the government and the council have breached international conventions and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the lawsuit says.

The council, established in 1996, is the highest central government body tasked with protecting the rights, and providing social welfare and benefits to Taiwan’s indigenous groups.

At its inception, the council oversaw policies for nine Aboriginal groups, which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) called “mountain compatriots”: the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tao and Tsou peoples.

Since then, the government has added the Thao, Kavalan, Truku, Sakizaya, Sediq, Hla’alua and Kanakanavu communities to the list of recognized Aboriginal groups.

However, over the past two decades, the government has steadfastly refused to recognize the Siraya and other Pingpu groups as indigenous peoples. The council has excluded them and rejected their demands for recognition.

While the Siraya lost a first ruling in a lower court, they appealed and the Supreme Administrative Court last year ordered a retrial, with judges saying that “indigenous people and their ethnic status is derived from family bloodline; they were born with it. It is not granted by the government’s authority, nor is it given by registration at a government office... Therefore, a retrial is ordered, requiring further review and investigation.”

Besides the Siraya, the other Pingpu groups, who live in rural areas in clan-based village communities, include the Babuza, Hoanya, Kaxabu, Ketagalan, Makatao, Pazeh, Papora, Taokas and Tavorlong communities.

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