TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday urged Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Minister Sun Ta-chuan to work on solving the long-stalled indigenous peoples autonomy act. Sun said yesterday in the Kuomintang’s (KMT) weekly Central Standing Committee meeting that Taiwan’s indigenous peoples have been facing the same problem for years, which is that the development of autonomy cannot achieve a breakthrough through legislative procedure.
Sun said autonomy and land are meaningful to indigenous peoples, given that homelands have extreme cultural significance. It is through this reasoning that many people believe reclamation of land is essential to cultural identity.
The Executive Yuan passed an indigenous autonomy draft in 2010, Sun said; however, the draft failed to pass in the Legislature. Sun added that since then the Executive Yuan has had the draft in review, as there are disagreements over the draft’s details.
Sun added that the indigenous peoples’ Land Act draft is facing even more difficulties.
In response to Sun’s concerns, Ma said that over the past decades the government has assisted indigenous people educationally, economically, culturally and socially. Ma however conceded that there are difficulties to work through regarding the granting of autonomy, as the act would have wide-ranging repercussions.
Ma said one of his political views proposed in the 2008 presidential election campaign was to carry out a trial of more meaningful autonomy for indigenous peoples. The president said he understands there are many obstacles to pass but he nevertheless has recently discussed the issues with the premier and said he hopes the Executive Yuan and the CIP can work on the issue from a wider perspective and handle it cautiously.
Sun said that apart from the development of autonomy, over the past few years many natural disasters — such as Typhoon Morakot in 2009 — have caused major damage in Taiwan, especially to townships in mountainous areas. Sun went on to say that there are currently 700 tribes living in or near such areas, including 30 indigenous townships. Thus, he said, it is important to think about the safety of living conditions and the habitats’ industrial development.
The government can’t ask the residents to leave their homes for safety reasons every time a typhoon approaches, Sun said.
The president also said that he believes the populations that speak indigenous languages are losing the battle to keep their natives tongues alive. Meanwhile, the Hakka people are also facing the same problem, Ma said, adding that the government will work harder to preserve the languages.