Representatives from the Siraya community in Greater Tainan yesterday appealed to the Ministry of the Interior for the restoration of their Aboriginal status, in a continuation of their 2010 lawsuit requesting their inclusion as one of the nation’s officially recognized Aboriginal groups.
Uma Talavan, Cheng-hiong Talavan and Mu Lekun presented their case on behalf of the Tainan Siraya Culture Association at the hearing by the ministry’s Petition and Appeals Committee.
The three Siraya leaders, accompanied by their lawyers, had been the plaintiffs for the association and other Siraya organizations in the case, launched in 2010, to seek official recognition.
However, the courts have ruled against them — first by the Taiwan High Administrative Court in 2011, followed by the Supreme Administrative Court, which rejected its appeal in March.
“We are the original inhabitants of Taiwan. How can this ROC [Republic of China] government deny our existence? The government has no right to deprive us of our identity as Siraya Aborigines,” association director Uma Talavan said.
Together with other Pingpu activists, Uma Talavan has also attended UN meetings and international conferences on Aboriginal rights, receiving support from and forming alliances with global Aboriginal movement groups.
The Pingpu are Taiwanese Aborigines originally residing in lowland regions, as opposed to the 16 officially recognized Aboriginal groups who live in the highlands.
“The Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Taiwanese government’s denial of our existence and refusal to recognize our Aboriginal status is morally wrong, and is in violation of human rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Uma Talavan said.
“It also violates two important rights conventions that the government ratified in 2009 — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” she said.
Ten Pingpu groups are seeking recognition as official Aboriginal groups. These are the Babuza, Hoanya, Kaxabu, Ketagalan, Makatao, Papora, Pazeh, Siraya, Taokas and Tavorlong.
Joseph Lin (林永頌), an attorney representing the Siraya, told the panel that the legal basis for recognition is sound, because the groups have presented historical documents and household registries from the pre-1950s era.
He said the council and the ministry have no right to deny the existence and identity of an ethnic group, especially the Aborigines of the nation.
Chieng-hiong Talavan said that the Siraya and other Pingpu groups were listed as Aborigines on household registries during the Japanese colonial era and the early years of KMT rule up to the 1950s.
“We are just asking for a restoration of our original status. We had the ethnic identity and official registry documents of our family clans as proof of this. It was taken away by the KMT government. We are asking the government to return our original identity and ethnic status that are rightfully ours in the first place,” Chieng-hiong Talavan said.
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