The Dialogue between Smangus and the Bureau of Forestry April 24th, 2007

Written by Smangus Action Alliance
Translated by Chien-Yi Chiang-Lin, Chun-Man Li, Hsiao-Wei Cheng, Ren-Pin Wu, and Ti-Yang Shih, students form National Sun Yat-Sen University

Today, Smangus presented a petition to the Bureau of Forestry, protesting its inappropriate handling of the wind-fall wood event and asked the Bureau to apologize for and correct their accusation of larceny. The Bureau of Forestry allowed only ten petition representatives to enter the venue (led by Omi Wilang of Tayal Presbytery) to talk with Hung-Chih Yang (楊泓志), head of Forest Administration Division as the deputy of the Director-General of the Bureau.. No media was there at that time.

(People of Smangus began their march from their village to the Bureau of Forestry in early morning to fight for tribal sovereignty. People were few but their spirit was high!)

In the first place, one of the two parties didn’t approve of the presence of media. On this account, we compromised to have whole-course sound-recording. Then, after it was confirmed that Division Head Yang could accept the plea statement from the representatives on behalf of the Director-General of the Bureau, the media took the photograph and left the venue.

The stands of the both parties are listed out from the five major petitions for The Bureau of Forestry as follows:

A.The Bureau of Forestry shall apologize for stigmatizing Smangus with charges of larceny.

The Bureau: The Forest Bureau did not stigmatize Smangus with charges of larceny. It was but the verdict made by the judge. The Bureau does not need to apologize.
Smangus: If the Bureau of Forestry did not offer the testimony against the three people of Smangus, how would they have been charged with larceny?

B.The Bureau of Forestry shall clarify the truth and bring the corrections to the court.

The Bureau of Forestry: We had been aware of Smangus people’s cleaning the wind-fall beech, but we could not provide any corrections voluntarily to the court. Smangus, however, can appeal to the higher court. If the court arraign for the crew of The Bureau of Forestry, we would offer supplementary corrections.
Smangus: If the Bureau did not explicitly admit that they would not treat the event as an offence of larceny, is it possible that you would further offer another testimony counting against Smangus?

※Obviously, the two sides could not reach any agreement on the above two petitions. Therefore,we moved on to discuss the latter three points as the second main issue. We would go back to previous part after that.

(Icyeh the wise chief cried out, “Why don’t you just put all of us behind the bars?”)

C. the Bureau of Forestry shall agree to observe the Aboriginal Basic Law and respect the local indigenous people’s rights in their territory.

D. With regard to everything concerning the indigenous traditional territory, the Forestry Bureau shall discuss with the indigenous communities and villages for the management regulations.

E. The Forestry Bureau shall amend the law where the Forestry Act contradicts the Aboriginal Basic Law.

The Bureau of Forestry explained the Section 4, Article 15 of The Forestry Act that “if the forest is located in the traditional territory of aboriginal people, the aboriginal people may take forest products for their traditional living needs. The harvesting area, variety, time, paid/unpaid, and other rules should be decided by the central government agency along with the Council of Indigenous peoples’ Affair. However, the details of the management regulations of the law, such as a clear content of traditional territory and customs, are not yet decided. They have to be decided by the central government departments including Council of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.

Dr. Yih-Ren Lin suggested that it was the representatives’ agreement that the Bureau of Forestry should admit that the Bureau does not fully understand that complexities of the ways Forestry Act takes into account the spirit of indigenous traditional territory and custom. For that reason, the Forestry Bureau should not consider this case an offense of larceny before the court.

Meeting Adjourned.
After the meeting, the Bureau of Forestry issued a written statement as follows: “We realize that Smangus could consider this wind-fall beech case with the spirit of Article 15 of the Forestry Act. Therefore, when you appeal to a higher court, our staff could help clarify your thinking.” Dr. Yih-Ren Lin later explained that he had already conceded in his suggestion, but the statement from the Bureau of Forestry was just in a diametrical position.

A consensus has not been reached and the gap between both parties has been further increased. At last, Icyeh, the Smangus Chief expressed his gratitude and said “Thank you for the long and vehement discussions today. Since we can not get a bona fide response from the Bureau of Forestry, we will call an end to our meeting here.”

(The dialogue failed. The action team held another meeting to discuss the strategy for the next move. We pray to God to give us wisdom and power.)