Representatives of Siraya communities in Tainan yesterday rallied in Taipei to demand that lawmakers amend the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples (原住民身分法) to recognize and grant official status to the Siraya and all other Pingpu groups as indigenous people.
Organized by the Tainan Siraya Culture Association, representatives of other Pingpu groups — including the Babuza, Ketagalan, Makatao and Pazeh — also participated in the rally.
It has been a long road and many Siraya elders cannot wait another year, as they have struggled for official status and recognition for more than two decades, but the process has been stalled by opposition parties and bogged down by legislative procedures, association secretary-general Uma Talavan (萬淑娟) said.
Protesters held up banners that read: “Restore our original indigenous status,” “Pingpu groups are also Taiwan’s indigenous peoples,” “We protest stalling by political parties,” “Legislators, please support the amendment” and “President Tsai [Ing-wen (蔡英文)], please keep your promise.”
They handed a petition to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Kuo Kuo-wen (郭國文), which Uma said requested that Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) expedite cross-party negotiations and help to remove obstacles for the amendment to pass to a second and third reading.
Chen said she would strive to get the amendment — which proposes that a third group, “Pingpu aborigines” (平埔原住民), join the “lowland” and “highland” Aboriginal communities recognized in the act — past cross-party negotiations and would do her best to lobby fellow DPP legislators for their support.
Kuo said that he has always supported the cause and has stood with the Siraya for many years, adding that he has voiced his support during cross-party negotiations.
He vowed to press other lawmakers and government officials to facilitate the amendment’s passage, saying that there is little time to do so, as the current legislative session is to end in December before the presidential and legislative elections in January next year.
The protesters then marched to the Executive Yuan and presented another petition, which urged Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to endorse the legislation and help soften perceived opposition in some government agencies, particularly the Council of Indigenous Peoples.
The group later rallied outside the Presidential Office Building and handed an official another petition, which asked for Tsai to support and provide leadership on the issue.
Granting official status to Pingpu groups was a pledge made by Tsai, who earlier this year called for the DPP to have the amendment passed by the end of the year, Uma said.
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