On the afternoon of December 4, President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the 20th meeting of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. In remarks, the president stated that work must continue with respect to transitional justice, development projects in indigenous communities, and ensuring the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and that government agencies will continue to engage in dialogues with indigenous peoples. She also formally announced that the term of office for the members of the third-term committee has been extended to May 20, 2024, and asked the members to work together with her until her last day in office. The government is gradually implementing various policies in response to the aspirations of indigenous peoples, the president said. She expressed her hope that Taiwanese society understands that ethnic relations is an issue that involves us all, and that we must face historical truths together to move toward genuine reconciliation.
In her opening remarks, President Tsai said that this was the committee's 20th meeting, and that we launched committee operations on August 1, 2016, the first Indigenous Peoples' Day after she took office. The president said that using this dialogue platform set up by the Presidential Office, the government, representatives from various indigenous communities, and experts and scholars have discussed historical and transitional justice for indigenous peoples, and jointly established policy directions. The president then thanked all the committee members for working with the government over the past few years to advance the rights of indigenous peoples.
President Tsai pointed out that according to the Guidelines for Establishment of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee, the term of office for members of the third-term committee will expire on December 10 this year. However, she noted, work must continue with respect to transitional justice, development projects in indigenous communities, and ensuring the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, and government agencies must continue to engage in dialogues with indigenous peoples. She therefore asked all of the committee members to continue their joint efforts until her last day in office.
The president acknowledged that committee members still have issues they want the government to continue working on, and that there is still time before May 20 next year to finish such work. The president thanked the committee members for agreeing to extend their terms of office, and formally announced that the members of the third-term committee will be retained until May 20. She invited the committee members to keep working with her in promoting even more communication and discussions, and continue to realize transitional justice for indigenous peoples.
Next year's budget for the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the president said, is NT$11.1 billion, a historical high. To implement development policies for indigenous peoples in urban areas, the president said, the government will build nine public service spaces and 17 cultural and ritual venues for indigenous peoples to facilitate diverse exchanges and greater mutual understanding among different ethnic groups.
In 2017 at the fourth committee meeting, the president mentioned, she invited the Taiwan Sugar Corporation (TSC) and indigenous peoples to engage in dialogue. After the two parties communicated, the government allocated a budget for next year to purchase TSC land and return it to tribal peoples, achieving the policy goal of ensuring land and historical justice for indigenous peoples.
In November this year, the president said, members of the Paiwan tribe from Mudan Township in southern Taiwan retrieved their ancestral remains from the UK's University of Edinburgh through a Paiwan traditional ceremony. This had great historical significance as it is the first case in which Taiwan's indigenous community lodged an international request for the return of ancestral remains.
President Tsai said that promoting historical and transitional justice for indigenous peoples is a long-term endeavor. But we are not alone, she said, as many partners have gotten involved and we have international support, so the government can gradually implement various policies in response to the aspirations of indigenous peoples.
The president once again expressed her deepest gratitude to all the committee members, and said she hopes that Taiwanese society understands that ethnic relations is an issue that involves us all, and we must face historical truths together to move toward genuine reconciliation.
President Tsai then invited Vice President Lai Ching-te to preside over the rest of the day's meeting, and encouraged the committee members to actively share their perspectives and provide valuable suggestions.