1. COVER STORY
  2. Passing the Baton – Speaking Out for Communities
  3. Nation vs. Community | Where does Indigenous Peoples’ Transitional Justice Go from Here?

Written by yapasuoyngu akuyana (General Director of Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policy)


INDIGENOUS SIGHT 2021-06-24

Translated by Lai Yu-Hsuan

 

To solve long-standing problems, we have to honestly face up to their root causes resulting from historical prosecution and injustice. I believe only when we treat the pain from history, can we turn the historical suppression of the indigenous peoples, into shared historical memories of all peoples in Taiwan, and bring about true reconciliation and transitional justice. On this basis, together we can pursue the future of Taiwan.

Presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-Wen (talk on indigenous peoples’ policies, 2015/8/1)

 

The success of one ethnic people can be built on the suffering of another. Unless we deny that we are a country of justice, we must face up to this history. We just tell the truth, and then, most importantly, the government must genuinely reflect on this past. This is why I stand here today.

President Tsai Ing-Wen (an official apology to Taiwan’s indigenous peoples on behalf of the government, 2016/8/1)

 

Since its establishment in 2016, the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee (hereafter referred to as Indigenous Justice Committee), has touched upon important issues such as indigenous peoples’ autonomy, land, education, human rights, communities, name restoration. Many more problems ranging from the relocation of nuclear waste on Orchid Island, solutions to deprivation of indigenous peoples’ rights to land, to long-running discrimination are faced by indigenous peoples in all levels of society. However, reflecting on the fact that the work on indigenous peoples’ transitional justice faces a large predicament and has made things worse. Another illustration of this is the Constitutional Interpretation No. 803 concerning indigenous hunting released by Judicial Yuan on the 7th of May this year. The interpretation itself is full of “understandings” and “guidance” solely from the aspect of mainstream society. 

 

Constitutional Interpretation No. 803

 

Since its establishment in 2016, the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee (hereafter referred to as Indigenous Justice Committee), has touched upon important issues such as indigenous peoples’ autonomy, land, education, human rights, communities, name restoration. Many more problems ranging from the relocation of nuclear waste on Orchid Island, solutions to deprivation of indigenous peoples’ rights to land, to long-running discrimination are faced by indigenous peoples in all levels of society. However, reflecting on the fact that the work on indigenous peoples’ transitional justice faces a large predicament and has made things worse. Another illustration of this is the Constitutional Interpretation No. 803 concerning indigenous hunting released by Judicial Yuan on the 7th of May this year. The interpretation itself is full of “understandings” and “guidance” solely from the aspect of mainstream society. 

 

Scrutinising 2 Perspectives of Trasitional Justice
by Practising Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights 
Establishment and operations of the Indigenous Justice Committee, thematic sub-committees, and relevant government agencies.

The Indigenous Justice Committee is set under the Presidential Office, and serves as a platform for consultation between the government and various indigenous peoples on an equal footing. In effect, without specific statutory power, the Committee can only rely on the thematic sub-committee conveners, who are unpaid, to set an annual work agenda, and then raise funds from relevant government agencies. Maintaining and coordinating the sources of funds for thematic sub-committees have ended up being the most important mission of the Indigenous Justice Committee. Furthermore, when fundamental issues such as indigenous peoples’ land, history, languages, and culture are involved, not only is communication within the society necessary, but the existing regulations and relevant administrative authorities will also have to be challenged. The major staff unit of the Indigenous Justice Committee is the Council of Indigenous Peoples whose Minister also takes on the position as the executive secretary of the Indigenous Justice Committee. In this case, how are we going to expect that the Committee could rightly ensure political impartiality and assist indigenous peoples, in our entirety, in the negotiation with the government on an equal footing? When the line between power and responsibility is ambiguous, the Council of Indigenous Peoples might intervene in the independent working of the Committee.


Appointments and nomination of a representative for each indigenous people.

Election of the committee members representing the various indigenous peoples shall be completed within four months, with the Council of Indigenous Peoples providing assistance to indigenous peoples or ethnic groups. It has been found that the committee members, who have been appointed through the assembly of the various indigenous peoples, community meetings, or existing ethnic councils, can better represent each indigenous people and their collective consciousness. On the contrary, if representatives are bound by the government administration, or who used to be legislators, most of their proposals only take care of their responsibility as a central or local governmental legislator (proposals such as increasing the indigenous reserved land, slope reinforcement construction, installation of speed camera, etc.). If so, the Indigenous Justice Committee will end up being a part of parliament, or local council and therefore incur a lot of criticism. As President Tsai Ing-wen stressed, the goal of setting up the Indigenous Justice Committee is to “clarify historical facts, spur societal communication, and put forward policy proposals, and seek reconciliation among different ethnic groups.” The truth is there has been little discussion about issues concerning the government and the indigenous peoples. Examples include the responsibility of treating nuclear waste on Orchid Island, Asia Cement’s mining rights, and land registration report of Lintianshan.

 

 

What is the Next Step for Indigenous Peoples’ Transitional Justice? 

 

The experience with several colonial powers has weakened the internalised control of indigenous peoples. Democracy and the voting system in the modern world have only helped justify the legitimacy of colonial power’s suppression, but has done little to help the indigenous peoples out of the plight. To make things worse, vested interests resulting from political exploitations accelerate the collapse of traditional indigenous community structure. The government uses “seemingly beneficial welfare policies” to take care of indigenous peoples, but all these policies do is speed up the loss of indigenous languages, cultures, and land. In addition, indigenous peoples have been put on display to showcase the country’s multiculturalist policies.

 

 Only when the differences among diversified cultures are recognised; the fact of indigenous peoples being colonised and our autonomous governance being deprived is acknowledged, the relationships between the government and indigenous peoples will then be restored. Indigenous peoples need to play a role in the political system in our Constitution, and the ruling party has to follow three principles of mutual acknowledgement, agreement, and cultural continuity when it tries to listen and understand indigenous peoples. Transitional justice will be made possible when both engage continuously and painstakingly in the discussion of the constitutional system appropriate for their generation.

 

Only when the past sufferings of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples are understood; the rights of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples will be returned, then the mainstream society’s “transitional justice” and “restorative justice” can be achieved ethically, theoretically, and practically. All ethnic groups in Taiwan can consequently be reconciled and healed.

Hao-Jen Wu, “The Rehabilitation of ‘the Savage’”

 


 


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