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.
According to Article 2 of the aforementioned Guidelines, the tasks of the committee are as follows:
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 themsevles. 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. This is the first committee in which the representatives elected by the various indigenous peoples engage in a dialogue with the president regarding historical justice and transitional justice. The special significance of this platform lies in the respect it shows for the autonomy of indigenous peoples, and the pursuit of ethnic reconciliation.
The appointments of the members of the first committee expired on May 19, 2018. The current second committee comprises 29 committee members, which includes President Tsai Ing-wen as the convener, as well as one representative for each of the 16 indigenous peoples, three representatives for all Pingpu ethnic groups, two representatives from relevant government agencies, and seven scholars and experts. President Tsai has also appointed Icyang Parod (Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples) as executive secretary of the committee and Chiu Chang-yueh (Director-General of the Second Bureau of the Office of the President) as deputy executive secretary to coordinate committee operations and oversee the work of 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.
I know that even now, there are some around us who see no need to apologize. But that is the most important reason why I am representing the government to issue this apology today.
To see what was unfair in the past as a matter of course, or to treat the pain of other ethnic peoples as an unavoidable part of human development, this is the first mindset that we, standing here today, resolve to change and overturn.
The success of one ethnic people can be built on the suffering of another. Unless we deny that we are a country of justice, we must face up to this history. We must tell the truth. And then, most importantly, the government must genuinely reflect on this past. This is why I stand here today.