Legislators ask support for Aborigine townships

INITIATIVE::The PFP proposed an amendment to the Local Government Act to grant Aboriginal townships a special status, even after administrative changes

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - Page 4

The People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus yesterday urged all lawmakers to support its proposal to restore administrative power to several former Aboriginal townships that lost their township status when they were incorporated into special municipalities.

“The 10th amendment to the Constitution says that the state should, according to the wish of Aboriginal tribes, protect their status and the right to political participation,” PFP Legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二) of the Amis tribe, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.

“However, the amendment has become pointless as the government did nothing when several Aboriginal townships lost — and one is about to lose — their administrative power once they became part of the special municipalities,” he said.

Lin was referring to the administrative upgrade — or expansion — of New Taipei City (新北市), Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung in 2010, as well as the approved administrative upgrade of what is now Taoyuan County, which will take effect by Dec. 25, 2014.

Due to administrative changes, Wulai District (烏來) of New Taipei City, Heping District (和平) of Greater Taichung, Namasiya (那瑪夏), Taoyuan (桃源) and Maolin (茂林) districts of Greater Kaohsiung have lost their status of Aboriginal townships and have instead become districts in special municipalities.

According to the Local Government Act (地方制度法), Aboriginal townships enjoy independent budget powers and the position of an Aboriginal township mayor is reserved for Aborigines only.

However, as districts in special municipalities, these former Aboriginal townships now have to depend on the city governments and councils to decide on how their budget is spent — and are usually allocated reduced budgets — while the heads of these districts are appointed by mayors, without any restrictions on ethnicity.

Taoyuan County’s Fusing Township (復興), a legally recognized Atayal township, will face the same situation when Taoyuan County becomes the country’s sixth special municipality in 2014.

“As far as the budget is concerned, let’s take Namasiya for example,” Lin said. “Before becoming a municipal district, the Namasiya Township offices had a total budget of about NT$155.8 million [US$5.3 million]. However, after the administrative change, the total budget for Namasiya was cut down to NT$75.7 million last year. Not to mention the absence of protection for the Aboriginal right to political participation.”

Following Lin’s recommendation, the PFP caucus has proposed an amendment to the Local Government Act that would grant Aboriginal townships, as well as former Aboriginal townships, a special status even after administrative changes and called on other lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, to support the proposal.