Comments on Executive Yuan's responses to the appeals in May 30 Pinhapan protest Smangus organized for the case of windfall beech

By Smangus Action Alliance

Translated by Tony Chu, Taiwanese/American Fellowship Presbyterian church in New Jersey, USA

The Pinhapan 530 action alliance identified that the person who represented the administration in response to the alliance's appeals was the Executive Yuan Council member Liu, Yu-Shan (劉玉山) . After Liu spoke to the protestors, the chief of Smangus, on behalf of the people, immediately replied that "they (Liu's responses) are far short for being accepted!" The protestors then shouted "We want to see premier!" and attempted to enter the office building. The chief of Smangus quickly asked the protestors to be calm and give premier a chance within one month to respond to the appeals. The petitions, the responses Liu made on site and the alliance's comments on the responses are as the follows.

1. Paid apology in public and returned the beech trunk: we demand a public apology from the Forestry Bureau that should return the beech trunk back to Smangus.

Response: No response to the petition. Liu only said that this issue should be resolved in court. The Council of the Indigenous Peoples of the Executive Yuan would help the defendants' lawyer to make the case in favor to the defendants.

Comment: Such a notion was also stated by the Forestry Bureau on April 24. But the issue is -- The Forestry Bureau made a mistake in executing its administrative power. The staff violated the Aboriginal Basic Law article 21 by taking away the windfall tree in the indigenous people's territory without an agreement from the locals. The staff didn’t observe the Forestry Law article 15 which stated that "the indigenous peoples, in need of living in traditional ways, are right to collect the forestry produce," and instead accused the defendants of larceny. The people of Smangus are asking the Bureau for an apology and returning the beech. It is unbelievable that due to bureaucracy, the negotiation become so difficult. This same case can be judged based on the Aboriginal Basic Law articles 23 and 30 which state that indigenous people's traditional ways of living should be respected. As the Tayal people's cultural law actually regards the behavior of Forestry Bureau larceny, we argue that in reason the regard is legally valid. Is it inevitable that the people of Smangus have to turn around to accuse the Forestry Bureau of larceny based on the judiciary judgment for administrative wrongdoing?

Addition: the term "the indigenous peoples' territories" is based on the Aboriginal Basic Law article 2. It is referred to the land and reservation the indigenous peoples historically recognize. Based on the experience of dealing with the administrative officers, the indigenous people found that many officers who claim as lawful lack knowledge of the Law or intentionally avoid observing the term.

2. The indigenous peoples' traditional territories should not be trespassed on: we demand the Executive Yuan to diligently supervise the administrative bodies that in practice should observe the Aboriginal Basic Law. The indigenous people's right of keeping traditional territories should not be violated.

Response: Liu's statement was the same as what the Forestry Bureau had made. It was stated that the traditional territories would need to be delineated.

Comment: The response particularly angered the elders of Smangus. They questioned Liu "Please say it clearly that how many years we the native have been living on this land and how long your people have been here. Did your ancestors brought over our territories in their immigration to Taiwan?" The existence of indigenous peoples' traditional territories is a fact. The fact does not need delineation to make it true. The Executive Yuan is not administering based on the Aboriginal Basic Law. The Council of Indigenous Peoples is not actively showing the fact to the other administrative bodies. This default leaves the Forestry Bureau, the police, and the judges in court to know little about the fact.

The location of Smangus community is not at the borderline area between the indigenous and non-indigenous people. The location is certainly in the traditional land of indigenous people. The administration cannot dodge the responsibility of necessarily knowing this fact and use the lack of knowledge as an excuse to violate indigenous peoples' right. The Aboriginal Basic Law article 20 clearly indicates that the governmental body should recognize indigenous peoples' land and the peoples' right of reasonably using the natural resources in the lands. The administration, claiming that the definition of the land has not been made clear and further research is necessary, is tactically depriving of the right long due to the indigenous peoples.

3. Substantiate the Aboriginal Basic Law: We demand the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan to soon write and pass the children bills of the Law. Moreover, we demand the law to be actually implemented. By doing so, indigenous peoples' right of autonomy can be upheld.

Response: The administration responded that the writing of the detailed law was underway. Such a response of "we are working on it" to our petitions appears to be a posture of passiveness and reluctance. Defining and completing the coverage of the Aboriginal Basic Law relevant to the constitution is the administration's job. We urge the administration to do the job on an efficient and timely schedule. As the detail of the Law is incomplete, we are frustrated that even the articles of the existing Law are not observed by the administration. We criticize that the administration in practice did not follow the Law by consulting with us to avoid violating our right. The administration is the one that should be held accountable for the default. It will be absurd that we the people need to request the government to compensate our loss in order to wake up and improve the administration's attention and efficiency.

4. Open negotiating channels on an equal status: We demand premier to act as the coordinator of the Aboriginal Basic Law implementation committee and to coordinate the relevant departments for initiating the negotiation with the community assembly of Smangus in one month.

Response: None.

Comments: Our demand is based on the articles 3 and 4 of the Law. That is, the implementation of the Law should depend on "the will of the aboriginal nations" and therefore needs consultation with the indigenous communities. We consider that at this point asking the administration to only consult with us Smangus is a humble request. Although valuing our autonomy, we understand the challenge of completing the Law in detailed faced by the administration. Therefore we request the administration to deal with our case as an independent one. This should leave both parties a great room for negotiation. Even as facing the unjust charge in court, we people of Smangus still understand and call for a direct talk and collaboration between us and the administration. In contrast, the Executive Yuan is acting passively and has not revealed any will to respond to our call. At least right now we feel sorry for the administration that claims itself a servant responsive to people's needs.

In all, it appears to us that the administration has not sincerely observed the Basic Aboriginal Law and even acts to trivialize it. This windfall beech case of Smangus suffers reveals a serious mistake the administration needs to work right away to correct. Persevering, we people of Smangus urge and expect the administration to undertake improvement within a month.

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