Ma vows to preserve nation's indigenous cultures
By Adam Tyrsett Kuo and Lauly Li ,The China Post
December 12, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that there used to be more than 40 different indigenous languages in Taiwan, but only 22 have survived, approximately eight of which are facing possible extinction.
The president made the comments at the Kuomintang's weekly Central Standing Committee meeting in which Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Lin Chiang-Yi (林江義), tribal name Mayaw Dongi, was invited to give a report on the government's policies to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples.
There are currently 530,000 indigenous peoples belonging to 14 different tribes in Taiwan, Ma pointed out.
Over the past five years, the government has made significant efforts to improve the living conditions of indigenous peoples residing in mountainous regions, the president said, adding that approximately NT$50 billion has been spent on farmland and water drainage projects.
There are still many problems that the government needs to solve, including education opportunities, job opportunities and housing for indigenous peoples, Ma said.
The recently signed economic cooperation agreement (ECA) between Taiwan and New Zealand features a section devoted to joint cooperation between the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and New Zealand, the president said, adding that the Maori wield considerable influence in New Zealand.
Aboriginal culture in Taiwan is what makes the island culturally diverse, Ma said, adding that similar to ecosystems, societies become stronger the more diverse they are, and in light of this fact, the preservation and promotion of indigenous cultures in Taiwan is a very important task.
The R.O.C. Constitution stipulates that all ethnicities are equal, and the improvement of the lives and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples remain some of the government's most important duties, the president said.
During the Central Standing Committee meeting, Lin stressed the importance to protect indigenous people's right to participate in local district elections next year as candidates. He explained should the Cabinet's recently proposed amendment to the Local Government Act pass in this legislative session, it would grant local self-governing body status to indigenous districts in special municipalities. The indigenous districts include Wulai (烏來) in New Taipei City, Heping (和平) in Taichung, Namaxia (那馬夏), Taoyuan (桃源), and Maolin (茂林) in Kaohsiung, and Fuxing (復興) in Taoyuan City.
The amendments also respond to the wishes of indigenous peoples to gain self-governance status and have more administrative control over their own communities, according to the Executive Yuan.