On the afternoon of December 28, President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the fourth meeting of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. She emphasized that the act promoting transitional justice by no means excludes indigenous peoples, and that any indigenous person whose human rights were violated under authoritarian rule can appeal for an investigation in accordance with the law once a transitional justice promotion committee has been established. In addition, different regimes have inflicted different types of suffering and discrimination on indigenous peoples, and these are all issues that the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee will have to deal with. President Tsai said she believes we are on the right path, and every discussion by the committee is a key step toward truth and reconciliation in Taiwan society.
The following is a translation of President Tsai's remarks:
Today is the fourth meeting of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee, and also marks the one-year anniversary of the committee's formal operations.
Over the past year, through the efforts of the committee members, we have verified that having the government sit down with representatives of all the indigenous tribes to face up to history and seek a mechanism for consensus is fundamentally workable.
To achieve transitional justice, we have to sit down and talk with each other, and a one-sided view of transitional justice would make it difficult to move toward genuine reconciliation. So our committee is a mechanism for sitting down to engage in dialogue and consultations.
Major issues discussed thus far by the committee include indigenous peoples' self-government, traditional territories, and the Pingpu ethnic groups' indigenous identity. We've also adopted work outlines for the five thematic subcommittees on land issues, culture, languages, history, and reconciliation, and organized a team to systematically clarify historical facts, an important task.
Even more importantly, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education are upholding the concept of "ethnic mainstreaming" by joining in the staff work of the committee, so our colleagues in the Council of Indigenous Peoples need no longer struggle alone. Agencies that in the past have had conflicts or unpleasant experiences with indigenous peoples, such as the Forestry Bureau, have also finally begun to have dialogue with indigenous peoples to build new partnerships.
Facing up to the scars and mistakes of our past is by no means an easy task, and won't necessarily give quick results. But I believe we are on the right path, and that every discussion by the committee is a key step toward truth and reconciliation in Taiwan society.
During these discussions, the care and good faith shown by the Forestry Bureau in dealing with issues like indigenous hunting and gathering and collaborative management of natural resources have deeply impressed me.
In today's meeting, we'll carry on in a similar vein. We've invited Taiwan Sugar Corporation (TSC) President Huang Yu-cheng (黃育徵) to present a report on TSC's participation in the committee's work.
Ever since the committee was established, many citizens have not believed that TSC, which has already been privatized, would be willing to cooperate in a thorough investigation of land records, or have direct dialogue with indigenous peoples. And yet today, the TSC president is with us.
There are three key pieces to the indigenous land issue puzzle that are indispensable to reconstructing the historical truth. I'm referring to the indigenous lands acquired by the Forestry Bureau, TSC, and the Veterans Affairs Council. Today, having previously heard from the Forestry Bureau, we will examine the second piece of the puzzle by talking with TSC. I will also ask the Veterans Affairs Council to give a report at a later date.
Today we also want to examine the draft version of the committee's annual work report so that more government colleagues and members of the public can understand what the committee has been doing.
In addition, just this month the Legislative Yuan passed the third and final reading of legislation to promote transitional justice, creating an institutional foundation for transitional justice tasks addressing Taiwan's authoritarian era.
I know some indigenous peoples are concerned about whether or not the government's transitional justice work will neglect, or even exclude, them. Here, I want to clearly state that the act promoting transitional justice does not exclude indigenous peoples.
Under the provisions of that act, once a transitional justice promotion committee has been established, any indigenous person whose human rights were violated during the period of authoritarian rule, from 1945 to 1992, can appeal for an investigation in accordance with the law.
For example, Mr. Wu Hsin Kuang (voe-uyongana, 吳新光), a committee member from the Tsou tribe who is here today, mentioned at the last meeting that he hoped to clarify the facts surrounding the late Dr. Voyue Tosku (杜孝生), who was victimized by the government in the 1950s. A future transitional justice promotion committee will be responsible for carefully handling cases like this to determine the truth and redress past injustices.
Of course, different regimes have inflicted different types of suffering and discrimination on indigenous peoples, and these are all issues that the committee will have to deal with. I hope the committee will lead the whole nation and society to gradually resolve these issues.
Changing widely held views may take some time, but I can at least guarantee that the committee will not sidestep difficulties, and will not predetermine which transitional justice issues cannot be discussed.
One of the items on today's agenda is a proposal for a bill for transitional justice for indigenous peoples. I hope to hear what all committee members really think about how the committee is functioning. Of course, we have to try to improve wherever we can.
I also know that recently many committee members, as well as ordinary tribespeople, are deeply concerned about the amendment of the Mining Act, especially Mr. Teyra Yudaw (帖喇．尤道), who represents the Truku tribe on the committee. We spoke with him before this meeting, and are willing to adjust the agenda and hear everyone's opinions about the Mining Act and the rights of consultation and consent.
The fact that there are so many issues shows how important historical and transitional justice are to our indigenous friends. So let's take this opportunity for dialogue, and make progress on these issues.
After completing her remarks the president listened to a briefing about TSC's participation in efforts to achieve transitional justice for indigenous peoples and, together with the committee members, examined the committee's annual work report. She also exchanged views with committee members on the proposed bill for transitional justice for indigenous peoples, the committee's operations, and a possible draft amendment to the Mining Act.