In her inaugural speech on May 20, 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen announced that in order to promote social fairness and justice, the new government will address issues concerning indigenous peoples with an apologetic attitude. Her administration will work to rebuild an indigenous historical perspective, progressively promote indigenous autonomous governance, restore indigenous languages and cultures, and improve the livelihood of indigenous communities.
President Tsai apologized on August 1, 2016 to the indigenous peoples on behalf of the government. She apologized for the pain and mistreatment the indigenous peoples have endured for the past four centuries, and pledged to improve their plights. On the very same day, she approved the Guidelines for Establishment of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee. The Indigenous Justice Committee will help to pursue justice and serve as a platform for consultation between the government and the various indigenous peoples on an equal footing.
II. Tasks of the committee
According to Article 2 of the aforementioned Guidelines, the tasks of the committee are as follows:
- Collect, process, and disclose accurate historical information regarding violations against indigenous peoples and deprivation of indigenous rights caused throughout history by alien regimes or immigrants.
- Draw up plans for administrative, legislative, or other measures to provide restitution, reparations, or compensation for violations against indigenous peoples and deprivation of indigenous rights.
- Conduct a comprehensive review to identify laws and policies that cause discrimination against indigenous peoples or violate the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law, and put forward amendment recommendations.
- Actively implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the various relevant international human rights conventions.
- Collect, process, and discuss information and views regarding indigenous historical justice and transitional justice.
According to Article 3 of the Guidelines, the committee is required to have 29 to 31 committee members. The president shall serve as the convener. There shall be two deputy conveners: one of these shall be appointed by the president, while the committee members representing the various indigenous peoples shall elect the other deputy convener from among their own number. The committee members shall include: the president, one representative for each of the 16 indigenous peoples; three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups; and representatives of relevant government agencies; experts and scholars; and 9 to 11 representatives of indigenous civic groups. Among these members, the Guidelines require that one representative for each of the 16 indigenous peoples and three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups be elected.
As of the end of December 1, 2016, each of the 15 indigenous peoples and three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups have been elected. The Puyuma people's assembly decided to postpone selecting a representative until February 8, 2017 due to their mangayaw rituals. This is a big breakthrough in Taiwan’s history that representatives for each indigenous peoples were elected to work together with President Tsai to promote historical justice and transitional justice.
On December 27, 2016, a preparatory meeting for establishment of the Indigenous Justice Committee was held, in which President Tsai appointed committee member Pasuya Poiconu as deputy committee convener. Mr. Walis．Perin was elected as another deputy convener by representatives of indigenous peoples and all Pingpu ethnic groups. At the same time, the preparatory meeting passed the Procedural Rules for Meetings of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee.
Currently, there are 29 committee members in the first committee meeting, including President Tsai as the convener, one representative for each of the 16 indigenous peoples, three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups, two representatives of relevant government agencies, and seven experts and scholars. Upon its establishment, the committee has begun its operation. In addition, President Tsai appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of the President Yao Jen-to as executive secretary of the Indigenous Justice Committee and Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples Icyang．Parod as deputy executive secretary to coordinate work of the committee staff.
According to Article 4, Article 5, and Article 8 of the Guidelines, the committee shall meet once every three months, and may convene extraordinary sessions when necessary. All meetings shall be presided over by the convener, and when the convener is unable to attend, the meeting shall be presided over by a deputy convener. When the committee meets, it may, in light of items on the agenda, request the attendance of government agency representatives, scholars, experts, or representatives of indigenous organizations or groups. Under the committee there shall be a subcommittee on land matters, subcommittee on culture, subcommittee on languages, subcommittee on history, and subcommittee on reconciliation. These thematic subcommittees are to study pertinent issues and put them forward for discussion at committee meetings. With respect to the measures that the committee plans and recommends, the Executive Yuan Committee to Promote Review and Implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law shall be the entity that handles deliberative and coordination matters connected with follow-up work. Before the end of each year, the committee shall publish an annual report on the implementation of its work, and shall provide it to the relevant government agencies for follow-up action.