Dozens of Aborigines — mostly residents of Kaohsiung County — along with Aboriginal rights activists, yesterday staged a demonstration outside the Executive Yuan, urging it to come up with a solution to maintain autonomy for Aboriginal townships after the merger or upgrade of several cities and counties into special municipalities next month.
“No to the takeover [of Aboriginal townships]! Autonomy for Aboriginal townships!” dozens of demonstrators shouted as they stood in pouring rain.
“This is something we expressed our concern about long before the approval to create the five new special municipalities, yet the government has not come up with a solution despite its promise to do so,” Taiwan Aboriginal Action Alliance secretary-general Omi Wilang said.
“This shows that the government doesn’t care about Aborigines and doesn’t really intend to allow Aboriginal autonomy even though the Executive Yuan passed the Aboriginal autonomy bill,” Wilang added.
The Aboriginal communities and activists are anxious because when the cities and counties are merged or upgraded to become special municipalities on Dec. 25, Aboriginal townships will become districts in the municipalities, elected township councils will be abolished and district heads will be appointed by the mayors without any prerequisites, according to the law.
At the moment, the law stipulates that Aboriginal township mayors must be elected and that only Aborigines can serve as Aboriginal township mayors
The Aboriginal townships that would be affected by the administrative upgrades include Wulai Township (烏來) in Taipei County, Heping Township (和平) in Taichung County and Namasiya (那瑪夏), Taoyuan (桃源) and Maolin (茂林) townships in Kaohsiung County.
On Dec. 25, Taipei County is to become Sinbei City, Taichung City and County are to be merged and become Greater Taichung, Tainan City and County will be merged and become Greater Tainan and Kaohsiung City and County will be merged to become Greater Kaohsiung.
Convener of the action alliance, Lituan Takeludun, a Bunun resident of Namasiya Township, said that the three Aboriginal townships in Kaohsiung County would reject any unelected district leaders, and they are opposed to disbanding their township councils.
“The government should not say they support Aboriginal autonomy, while actually abolishing what partial autonomy is already in place,” he said.
Lituan added that both -Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), the Democratic Progressive Party Greater Kaohsiung mayoral candidate, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) mayoral candidate Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) have voiced support for the Aborigines’ demands, but independent mayoral candidate Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) did not respond to their request for support.
Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Sun Ta-chuang (孫大川) said he would meet with 10 of the demonstrators in private inside the Executive Yuan, but the demonstrators declined, saying that if Sun wanted to meet them, he should meet them in public.
As the two sides could not reach agreement, the council only sent Chief Secretary Chen Cheng-chia (陳成家) to receive the petition from the demonstrators.
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