Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee post-meeting press conference
The Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee held its third meeting on the afternoon of September 29. The committee convener, President Tsai Ing-wen, presided over the approximately two-hour and 20-minute meeting. After the meeting, the committee's two Deputy Conveners Walis Perin (瓦歷斯．貝林) and Pasuya Poiconu (浦忠成) joined its Executive Secretary Yao Jen-to (姚人多) and Council of Indigenous Peoples Deputy Minister Calivat．Gadu (鍾興華) at a press conference to explain the two focal points of the meeting.
Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu started the proceedings by giving a work report on each of the five thematic subcommittees. He explained the funding and personnel support provided by various government agencies to each subcommittee, and their concrete progress, in the three months since they were formed. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, newly added as staff support for the committee, were each represented at the third committee meeting by a deputy minister and vice minister who attended as observers. Deputy Convener Poiconu emphasized that this constitutes an important attempt at "ethnic mainstreaming", and said that all government agencies must work together to address transitional justice and historical justice for Taiwan's indigenous peoples.
Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu pointed out that a bill to amend the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples was a focal point of discussion at the third committee meeting. This was the first time that representatives of Taiwan's Pingpu ethnic groups and the 16 indigenous tribes already recognized by law had met for honest and open discussions regarding Pingpu identity and rights. Many committee members were very forthcoming with their views. The three representatives of the Pingpu ethnic groups voiced a strong desire for official recognition of their ethnic identity and the restoration of their rights. The representatives of most of the indigenous tribes indicated support for recognition of Pingpu ethnic groups as indigenous peoples, but expressed concern about whether the restoration of Pingpu peoples' indigenous rights would impinge upon the rights of currently recognized indigenous peoples due to demographic and economic factors. There were also committee members who suggested the establishment of a separate committee for Pingpu ethnic groups.
Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu stated that President Tsai, after listening to the comments of the committee members, identified the following four points of consensus:
First, the Pingpu indigenous peoples are among the original inhabitants of Taiwan. Amending the law to recognize the indigenous identity of the various Pingpu tribes is one way for the government to achieve historical justice. In today's meeting, the committee members all supported amendment of the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples to include Pingpu ethnic groups as indigenous peoples.
Second, the Executive Yuan's version of the bill to amend the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples has already been forwarded to the Legislative Yuan for deliberations, so the committee members' views regarding the amendment will all be forwarded to the Legislative Yuan for reference.
Third, the government will take a prudent approach, and actively address the issue of the restoration of Pingpu rights. First, we hope that after the Pingpu indigenous peoples are registered according to their ethnic identity, we will be able to take more accurate census information and use it to assess their needs. And second, we will inventory and restore Pingpu indigenous rights with an eye to: (1) the objective needs of each tribe, and (2) the government's duty to ensure equitable allocation of resources.
Fourth, discussions regarding the restoration of rights must inevitably involve questions about the allocation of resources, both between the government and indigenous peoples, and internally among different indigenous groups. This is a very complex issue, but we will not sidestep the challenge. The committee exists to carry out discussions, and work together to find concrete ways to promote ethnic reconciliation among the various ethnic groups.
Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu also mentioned that President Tsai specially asked all the assembled committee members what they thought about these four points of consensus, and there were no objections. The president, he reported, also expressed gratitude to all the committee members for their active participation in this important dialogue, as well as to the committee members and subcommittee members and staffers for their efforts.
In relaying the president's comments, Deputy Convener Pasuya Poiconu pointed out that discussions during the meeting regarding amendment of the Status Act for Indigenous Peoples have shown that the committee has the ability to address—via discussion among the representatives of different ethnic groups—the complex issues that Taiwanese society faces as a matter of historical legacy. No matter how many historical controversies remain with us, we can face them all head-on, discuss them, clear up the facts, and find resolutions and ways to achieve reconciliation. Opinions may differ, but if we will only be honest and open, and boldly face problems, we can come to a consensus. The president also stressed that the committee is a mechanism for seeking reconciliation. Every committee member bears a responsibility to lead Taiwanese society toward reconciliation, and the committee will continue to move toward that goal.