Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) Representatives of indigenous groups on Tuesday urged the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration to introduce legislation promoting transitional justice for indigenous peoples in Taiwan.
The call comes one year after Tsai promised to create a new body that would address historical and transitional justice issues as they relate to the indigenous community.
The Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee under the Presidential Office was established earlier this year, in response to the promise Tsai made in a speech delivered on Aug. 1 last year.
In that speech Tsai issued a formal apology on behalf of the government to Taiwan's indigenous people for the discrimination and neglect to which they have been subjected for the past 400 years.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Atayal National Assembly Speaker Utux Lbak said he believes the committee was established to pursue the goal of "Sbalay," the Atayal word for "reconciliation" and to serve as a platform for dialogue between indigenous peoples and the government on major policies relating to indigenous communities.
"With Sbalay in mind, the established facts as they relate to the traditional lands of indigenous people should be recognized," said Utux Lbak at the news conference held by the federation of national assemblies of indigenous people to review the government's efforts over the past year to carry out the pledges made by Tsai.
Utux Lbak said the traditional territories of indigenous peoples are an established fact based on habitual protocols and autonomous negotiation.
"The government should not interfere (in the issue)," he said, referring to the ongoing dispute over the government's indigenous land delineation guidelines -- published in February -- that fail to take into consideration privately owned land.
As a result of that caveat, the government has effectively and arbitrarily reduced the traditional lands claimed by indigenous peoples in Taiwan from 1.8 million hectares to 800,000 hectares, according to members of the committee, which asked the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples in March to postpone the implementation of the guidelines.
At Tuesday's event, Utuk Lbak claimed that since the committee was established it has not been given sufficient autonomy to work and its operations have repeatedly been interfered with by various government departments.
In response, Utuk Lbak called on the committee to be given the power to determine major government policies concerning the transitional and historical justice of indigenous peoples, as well as the right to make decisions on its own organization and membership.
Pasang Tali (蕭世暉), an executive member of the Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples' Policy, argued that the government departments, including the Council of Indigenous Peoples, have from the beginning interfered in the committee's business, seeking to control who should be a member and what the committee should discuss.
If the committee is to function as nothing but a policy workshop, then indigenous people demand transitional justice legislation to establish a statutory body with the power to ensure real justice is done, Pasang Tali said.