Taiwan: Constitution to include Aborigines, Chen said
President Chen Shui-bian yesterday said he would work to set up a chapter on affairs concerning Aborigines in the nation's new Constitution, which he plans to introduce in 2008.
"The new partnership between the Taiwan government and the Aboriginal tribes and their relations of `a nation within a nation' are very important," Chen said. "Therefore we want to upgrade the status and designate a chapter in Taiwan's new Constitution in 2008 specifically for Aborigines."
Chen made the remarks while attending a seminar held to promote and publicize a study on Aboriginal tribes' ancestral land and territory.
Last year at the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) 17th anniversary Chen pledged to push for a new Constitution in 2006, and to enact it in 2008 to coincide with the inauguration of the next president.
Chen told the seminar attendees yesterday that the Cabinet-level Council of Aboriginal Affairs, after three years of field research, discussions and studies, had finished a total 251 "tribal maps" across the nation.
Chen said the completion of the tribal maps served as a basis for both the government and the Aborigines' effort to incorporate the notion of "a nation within a nation" in the Constitution.
"The completion of this mission signified a new responsibility and goal for us," the president said. "In the future we will continue to actively implement Aboriginal groups' natural sovereignty, land ownership and autonomy in a bid to achieve the completion of Aborigines' rights."
"We hope to soon accomplish the ideal of setting up Aboriginal autonomy, as so to achieve the grand vision that diverse cultures can co-exist on equal footing and prosper," Chen said, reiterating that he would honor the pact that he had signed with the nation's 11 Aboriginal representatives during a presidential campaign stop on Orchid Island in 1999.
The treaty was called "A New Partnership between the Indigenous People and the Government of Taiwan."
The treaty aims to promote Aboriginal autonomy and the return of land. The treaty also said that an Aboriginal Congress, consisting solely of Aboriginal representatives, should be established to handle matters related to Aboriginal rights and autonomy.
Other Aboriginal rights, such as the right to resources and land ownership, were also mentioned in the treaty.
Stressing that the Aborigines are Taiwan's "earliest and greatest ethic group," Chen told seminar attendants, who were mostly Aborigines, that "Aborigines need to stand up first before Taiwan can stand up and step out into the world, and Aborigines need to have dignity and hope first before Taiwan is to have dignity and hope."
There are currently 12 recognized Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. They are the Atayal, Yami, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Thao, Rukai, Saisiat, Tsou, Amis, Kavalan and Truku. The Amis is the nation's largest tribe with 150,000 members. There are approximately 400,000 Aborigines in Taiwan, comprising about 1.65 percent of Taiwan's 23 million people.