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President Tsai attends preparatory meeting for Presidential Office committee on indigenous justice
President Tsai attends preparatory meeting for Presidential Office committee on indigenous justice

On the afternoon of December 27, President Tsai Ing-wen attended a preparatory meeting for establishment of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. Acting in her capacity as committee convener, President Tsai delivered letters of appointment to the committee members and spoke about the importance that the government attaches to indigenous peoples affairs as well as the efforts it has made over the past four-plus months. The president also reiterated that the government will move forward cautiously to promote transitional justice for indigenous peoples, and expressed hope that the committee will be able to clear up historical facts, put forward suggestions for legislation or policy measures, spur societal communication, and strive for reconciliation among different ethnic groups.

The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:

This past August 1, when I apologized on behalf of the government to the indigenous peoples, I repeatedly stressed that the apology was only the beginning of our effort to deal with problems. To make up for past mistakes and move toward true reconciliation, the government still needs to do more, and do it better. That is why we are here today.

Since taking over the reins of government in May 2016, the new administration has made many efforts to address indigenous issues. The Executive Yuan has established a committee to promote review and implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, and set up a team to investigate the nuclear waste storage sites on Orchid Island. It is my understanding that the Council of Indigenous Peoples has been preparing weekly reports on progress toward achievement of the eight key pledges I made when I apologized to the indigenous peoples earlier this year. Icyang Parod (夷將‧拔路兒), Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, will provide a detailed report a bit later on progress that's been made so far.

I think all the committee members may have noticed that a bilingual copy of my apology to the indigenous peoples has been placed on the table before each of your seats. The Council of Indigenous Peoples spent a long time translating the text into 16 indigenous languages as well as English and Japanese, which shows the great importance that the country attaches to our indigenous languages.

Of course, the government must protect indigenous languages more effectively. I hope that the draft version of an indigenous languages development bill that the Cabinet recently approved will be handled quickly through deliberations in the Legislative Yuan. And I also hope that the languages of Taiwan's Pingpu ethnic groups will begin to receive their due respect in the near future.

The various indigenous tribes have spent four months deliberating in a democratic manner on whom to nominate as their representatives on the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee—or the indigenous justice committee for short—and most of the nominations have now been made. Nothing like this has ever been done before.

Each of the committee members is a person of outstanding repute who is deeply familiar with the culture and history of his or her people. I firmly believe that the committee, through its proceedings, will be able to secure the greater good of our indigenous peoples.

In addition to the indigenous representatives, I have also invited seven experts and scholars as well as Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) and President Wu Mi-cha (吳密察) of the Academia Historica to join the committee. We hope to draw on everyone's expertise to ensure that the committee's work goes smoothly.

In accordance with the guidelines for the establishment of the committee, I intend to specially appoint committee member Pasuya Poiconu (浦忠成) as deputy committee convener.

We committee members shoulder the heavy responsibility of finding out the historical truth and spurring reconciliation. We will approach these tasks with caution as we work together to promote transitional justice for the indigenous peoples.

The indigenous justice committee exists to clarify the historical truth. After that, we will honestly face up to problems and together come up with proposals for how to deal with them. One thing we must do is ensure that no further harm is inflicted upon anyone. Beyond that, we need to restore indigenous peoples’ rights that have been trampled upon, and actively seek to shape a fairer society.

More importantly, the dialogue that occurs among all of us on the committee constitutes a type of societal communication. And the process of this societal communication will provide opportunities for government agencies and Taiwanese society as a whole to learn about this neglected history.

So that is the basic idea behind the committee's establishment. And with that in mind, this preparatory meeting today is to give all the committee members a chance to get to know each other, fully express your views, and come to a consensus on how future meetings of this committee is to be conducted. We have used democratic procedures to select our representatives, and we will continue to adhere to democratic principles in the conduct of our committee meetings.

There's one point I have to make clear. In order to listen more to all of your views, I've postponed the next item on my schedule. Today's agenda has therefore been adjusted a bit.

Even so, I worry that I may not be able to take part in the entire meeting. In just a little while, the representatives of the various indigenous groups will be selecting another deputy committee convener from amongst themselves, and there are a number of other items on the agenda that Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu will handle on my behalf. I look forward to a smooth process in the selection of the other deputy convener.

After today's preparatory meeting, the indigenous justice committee will convene meetings of five different subcommittees to examine actual historical records and prepare reports. I hope all the committee members will guide the operations of the administrative staff and the subcommittees.

And finally, I want to stress once again that the purpose of this committee is to clarify historical facts, put forward legislative and policy proposals, spur societal communication, and seek reconciliation among different ethnic groups.

Next, acting in my capacity as committee convener, I will solemnly confer a letter of appointment to each committee member, and thereby formally request that you commence the work of the indigenous justice committee.

Through the efforts of each and every one of us, truth and reconciliation will be realized. At the first official meeting of the committee in 2017, we will gather together once again to commence the committee's formal proceedings.

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