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President Tsai presides over third meeting of Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee
President Tsai presides over third meeting of Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee

On the afternoon of September 29, President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the third meeting of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. The president acknowledged that societal attitudes regarding ethnicity have gradually changed in Taiwan. She also expressed hope that the committee's deliberations will raise the general level of understanding about indigenous issues so that the culture of the 16 currently recognized indigenous peoples, as well as Taiwan's Pingpu ethnic groups, will become part of mainstream culture and a point of pride.

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

Today, we are holding the third meeting of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. When this committee met three months ago, we adopted work outlines for the five thematic subcommittees, instructed their conveners to determine the facts at issue and initiate dialogue regarding land, culture, languages, history, and reconciliation issues.

At that time, I emphasized that historical justice and transitional justice for Taiwan's indigenous peoples are not matters for indigenous peoples alone, and the work of the committee is not just the work of a single cabinet agency. All government agencies must be involved.

Today, three months later, I am very happy to see that each of the five thematic subcommittees is fully staffed.

And more importantly, the related Executive Yuan agencies, coordinated by Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億) and Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples Icyang Parod (夷將‧拔路兒), are contributing funding and personnel, sifting through archival records, and thinking about what they can do to incorporate transitional justice for indigenous peoples into their existing work.

A number of government agencies providing staff support to the committee have sent representatives to attend today's meeting as observers. In addition to the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Ministry of Education is represented by Political Deputy Minister Tsai Ching-Hwa (蔡清華), and the Ministry of Culture is represented by Vice Minister Lee Lien-chuan (李連權). Various other entities have also begun to participate in the committee's work including Academia Historica, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Veterans Affairs Council, the Forestry Bureau, and the Taiwan Sugar Corporation, which is a positive development.

We will be hearing progress reports today from the five subcommittees, and hope everyone will be forthcoming with suggestions, take part in subcommittee tasks, spur more central government agencies to make changes, and initiate more dialogue in our society.

When I apologized to indigenous peoples last year on behalf of the government, I called on society as a whole to work together to get to know the history and culture of different ethnic groups, and build a country of true diversity and equality.

This is what is meant by the concept of "ethnic mainstreaming." When government agencies understand indigenous perspectives on history, and the public sincerely cares about and supports those views, this committee will have achieved its objective. Reconciliation and cooperation among different ethnic peoples will then occur naturally.

The task of changing the way people think is, of course, a long-term social engineering project. But there has been gradual change over the past year.

With the recent passage of the Indigenous Languages Development Act, the languages of the various indigenous peoples became official languages of Taiwan. In addition, Alian 96.3, the Indigenous Radio Station, has begun broadcasting. So people throughout Taiwan can now learn about indigenous music and culture by listening to radio programs.

The next change will be the restoration of the Pingpu ethnic groups' indigenous identity.

The Executive Yuan has already forwarded a bill to amend the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation. Those amendments will give members of the Pingpu ethnic groups formal legal status as indigenous peoples.

We all know that the Pingpu ethnic groups do not constitute a single tribe. They belong to many separate tribes. They have rich culture, and their own complex histories. If we are to address the issue of historical justice for indigenous peoples, we cannot ignore Pingpu issues.

Now that the various Pingpu ethnic groups are soon to have their ethnic identity restored under law, we all need to start thinking about what rights the government needs to be most concerned about.

For example, how do we determine what constitutes the traditional territories of the Pingpu tribes? Can the people of a particular Pingpu tribe acquire land that has already been reserved for other indigenous peoples? How should the government allocate resources to support culture, education, and social welfare services? These are complex issues that we must discuss today.

I am aware that what the Pingpu ethnic groups are seeking in terms of land rights and the right to political participation may cause tension with some currently recognized indigenous peoples. However, the committee must not sidestep controversies among different ethnic groups. Pretending problems don't exist is no way to resolve them.

The committee must show the way, and lead by example. If we are to build consensus and move toward reconciliation, committee members have to clearly express the thinking of people from your respective ethnic groups.

I sincerely hope the committee's discussions will continue to familiarize more government officials and citizens with indigenous issues. I hope these discussions will enable indigenous culture—including the culture of both the currently recognized 16 indigenous peoples and the Pingpu ethnic groups—to become part of Taiwan's mainstream culture and a point of pride.

In just a moment, I will be inviting all of the committee members to take the floor and speak your minds, so that together, we can promote changes in our government and all of Taiwanese society. Thank you.

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