Representatives of Taiwanese Aborigines held a press conference yesterday to report on their participation at the 18th session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, an international forum sponsored by the UN.
The team said China once again stood in Taiwan's way when it sought to obstruct their participation at the session, held from July 24 to 28 in Geneva.
After lengthy negotiations, the representative team of 11 Taiwanese Aborigines finally attended the meeting in the capacity of an organization affiliated to the Asian Indigenous People's Pact (AIPP) rather than with the names Taiwan or Formosa in their official title.
An anthropologist from National Dong Hwa University, Namoh Rata (吳明義), said the team did not attend any internal AIPP meeting but merely used the latter's name in order to participate, which, he said, was like "sneaking into the meeting."
"We should develop more affiliations with regional organizations before joining the UN," he said, "showing what we can do for regional partners and seeking thereby to solicit their support in the future."
"It's a matter of reciprocity," he added.
Discussing wider aspects of the team's involvement with UN agencies, team spokesman Kao The-i (高德義) who is also a professor of ethnic studies at National Dong Hwa University, said, "Politics are everywhere. The UN's system is very politicized and stratified."
"Even among Aboriginal groups from around the world, English-speaking Aborigines are more privileged and powerful in UN meetings," Kao said, adding, "we have to improve the English ability of Taiwan's Aborigines and foster talent in international affairs."
The team's head, Yasala Hola (陳克安), a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, used working group chairman Kenneth Deer's remarks to highlight political obstacles. "Deer said the working group does not yet belong to the Aborigines of the world. It belongs to the UN."
The press conference was held at the Presbyterian Church headquarters yesterday. This trip was fully sponsored by the Executive Yuan's Council of Aboriginal Affairs (CAA) and organized by the Presbyterian Church.
The principle theme of this year's working group meeting was indigenous children and youth. Many issues, like the environment and nature, hunting cultures and intellectual property were also discussed during the meeting.
Taiwan Aborigines from the Presbyterian Church have attended the meetings since 1988. The CAA's chairman, Yohani Isqaqavut (
"The working group is an NGO meeting and is very important to Aborigines all over the world. Taiwan Aborigines have to join." Yohani said.
"But I would never allow CAA officials to participate and thereby give China an excuse to make trouble for Taiwan," he said before the representative team departed to attend the meeting.
Even without any official representative from Taiwan, China was still able to throw obstacles in the way of the team's participation in the assembly this year. The situation has occurred annually since 1997.
"Before 1997, China didn't pay attention to the working group meeting," said Mayaw Kumud (馬耀谷木), a former Aboriginal activist, currently working as a councilor at the CCA.
He was a member of a team which attended the conference in 1997, made up of both unofficial representatives and then CAA deputy chairman Sun Ta-chuan (
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