Forums for Aboriginals planned

UNIFIED VISION: Some Aboriginal leaders want to help develop a consensus on what the political future should hold for the nation's indigenous population

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 2

Several Aboriginal social groups, including the Taiwan Indigenous Communication Association, announced yesterday that next month they would hold a series of forums for Aborigines across the nation on the possible establishment of nation-to-nation relations with the government.

The discussion series, called "Forum for Austronesian Indigenous Peoples," will include five discussion sessions around the country involving local Aboriginal leaders and representatives. Each session will cover issues related to the definition and practical enactment of sovereignty for Taiwan's indigenous people. The sessions will also cover President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) promise of a "semi state-to-state" partnership with Aborigines.

The forum's goal is to create a unified vision of the future of government and of relations among Aboriginal leaders, said Lin Ming-te (林明德), a member of the association's board of directors.

"President Chen has already said that he wants to establish nation-to-nation relations with Aborigines. However, that relationship doesn't just depend on the government. Aboriginal people need to come up with a unified view of what they want those relations to be like," Lin said.

The problem in setting up nation-to-nation relations, Lin said, is that there is no representative Aboriginal organization with which the government can communicate.

"Aboriginal people have been controlled by outside forces for too long. They've forgotten how to decide things for themselves and be self-governing," Lin said.

At a press conference yesterday, Lin proposed that the Aboriginal community set up a central entity to act as a governing body for the nation's indigenous people and as a go-between for Aborigines and the government.

When asked about the role of Aboriginal legislators and the Council of Indigenous Peoples, Lin said he considered their positions compromised by party politics and election considerations. Aboriginals need non-political, grassroots representation, Lin argued.

In response, Aboriginal Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) said he was reluctant to rule out the council and Aboriginal lawmakers as contributors to establishing nation-to-nation relations with the government, but said he would support the idea of forming a different mechanism if the forums revealed that Aboriginal people wanted one.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator, who will be hosting some of the forum's discussions, also announced that he and his fellow Aboriginal legislators would force votes on the Aboriginal Basic Law (人權基本法) and changes to the Land Law (土地法) during the extra legislative sitting planned for later this summer.

Until the bills are passed, Liao said, he and the other Aboriginal legislators would stall votes on all other issues.

The draft of the Aboriginal Basic Law outlines a structure for autonomy for Aborigines. The changes to the Land Law are designed to guarantee land rights to Aboriginals. Both bills failed to pass in the last legislative sitting.

The forum comes in the wake of protests by Aborigines from across Taiwan about recent remarks by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). However, forum organizers said that planning for the forum had been going on for a while.