December 12-18, 2011
Indigenous groups petition presidential candidates to address self-rule policies during debate
Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong
Written by Lydia Ma
Indigenous Peoples Action Coalition of Taiwan (IPACT) and various indigenous organizations recently called a joint press conference on December 8, 2011, on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Palace. They urged all 3 presidential candidates running for next year’s election, namely, Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai Ing-wen, and James Soong, to disclose their platform concerning securing indigenous peoples rights.
IPACT especially emphasized that the candidates should affirm that the relationship between indigenous groups and the R.O.C. is indeed that of a partnership and not a relationship between colonizer and colonized. It also urged them to comply with the United Nation\s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Omi Wilang, IPACT’s General Secretary who also serves as PCT Indigenous Ministries Secretary, said that IPACT regrets that none of the presidential candidates discussed policies related to indigenous peoples during their televised debate on December 3. “If this happens again in the next debate, it means that none of them is truly concerned about indigenous peoples. In other words, it means that they think we are people that can be exploited and gobbled up.”
Omi Wilang underscored that though all 3 candidates had addressed indigenous people’s rights to self-determination at some point during their campaign trail, but the fact that the issue wasn’t raised at all during the televised debate, nor any issue specifically pertaining to indigenous peoples, had raised some concerns. For this reason, IPACT is asking that all 3 candidates affirm that indigenous peoples are equal partners of the Republic of China.
Atayal Democratic Assembly (ADA) Moderator and Ulay Pinzitan Presbyterian Church pastor, Rev. Utux Lbak, underscored that ADA had always maintained that indigenous peoples are the traditional masters of Taiwan and the Republic of China government must return lands appropriated from them. “My hometown is beautiful and has many natural hot springs,” he said. “But we can’t enjoy these hot springs because they have been taken over by corporations.”
He added that not only have corporations occupied indigenous people’s ancestral lands, razed and destroyed them, but indigenous peoples now have no legal rights to the land their ancestors have lived for hundreds of years. He also said that indigenous peoples have even been prosecuted for something as small as picking and collecting branches on those lands.
According to Indigenous Peoples Policy Alliance, in the past 12 years of the Chen and Ma administrations, very little has been done in terms of advancing autonomy for indigenous groups despite campaign promises to do so. Therefore, indigenous leaders’ hope the next president will be more pro-active. For this reason, they are asking current presidential candidates to address autonomy issues and promise that the new Republic of China government will be a good partner to indigenous peoples.
After this press conference, indigenous leaders drove to the campaign headquarters of the 3 presidential candidates to personally deliver their petition.