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Presidential Office announces names of indigenous community representatives elected to Indigenous Justice Committee
Presidential Office announces names of indigenous community representatives elected to Indigenous Justice Committee

On Indigenous Peoples' Day—August 1, 2016—President Tsai Ing-wen apologized on behalf of the government to Taiwan's indigenous peoples and approved the Guidelines for Establishment of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee (hereafter referred to as Indigenous Justice Committee), to be chaired by the president herself. The committee will work hand-in-hand with representatives of the various indigenous peoples in pursuit of historical justice. As of December 1, elections for indigenous community representatives to the committee had all been completed.

Presidential Office Spokesperson Huang Chung-yen (黃重諺) stated that President Tsai attaches great importance to having a relationship of equals between the state and indigenous peoples. Under the provisions of the aforementioned Guidelines, the Indigenous Justice Committee is required to have 29 to 31 committee members, including one representative for each of the 16 indigenous peoples, and three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups. With the exception of the Puyuma representative, the other 18 representatives had all been elected as of December 1 per the Guidelines, which required that all such representatives be elected within four months of August 1, 2016.

According to Spokesperson Huang, included among the 18 indigenous community representatives are elderly persons deeply versed in indigenous history and culture, highly-experienced government officials, educators, and scholars and journalists in the prime of their careers. The Presidential Office fully respects the collective will of each of the indigenous communities and looks forward to the participation of their representatives. Noting that the process for selecting a committee representative posed a problem for the Puyuma people because it coincided with preparations for the Puyuma mangayaw rituals, which take place annually from December to January, Spokesperson Huang announced that the Puyuma people's assembly had decided to handle the selection of a representative in early 2017 after completion of the mangayaw rituals.

At the 2016 International Austronesian Conference that was held by Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples in late November, scholars and experts from the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries noted that President Tsai’s apology to Taiwan's indigenous peoples included more concrete pledges than have been seen in similar cases elsewhere in the world, and that the selection by each indigenous community of a representative to the committee was a unique democratic achievement. Spokesperson Huang stressed that the selection of these indigenous community representatives, and their attendance at committee meetings chaired by President Tsai, are both historical firsts for Taiwan.

Spokesperson Huang reported that President Tsai had spoken in high praise of the Council of Indigenous Peoples and noted that over the previous four months the Council had held 103 selection meetings, in which over 4,000 indigenous persons attended and participated in the discussions. The president also called for active implementation of the committee's follow-up administrative work and for a preparatory meeting to be convened before year's end in order to ensure that work to achieve historical justice and transitional justice for indigenous peoples gets underway as soon as possible.

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