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Indigenous voters must reject racism

Indigenous voters must reject racism

Opposition Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou has again displayed that he is truly "consistent from beginning to end" in terms of retaining a "great Han chauvinist" and paternalistic mentality with regard to Taiwan's indigenous peoples and disadvantaged groups.
The incident took place during a campaign stop in Xindian City, Taipei County after members of the predominately Ami Sizhou Community, a group of squatters located just across Xindian City on the left bank of the Xindian River, petitioned "President Ma" to help prevent their imminent forced relocation by the Taipei County government run by Ma's "teammate" Chou Hsi-wei.
After listening to complaints of inadequate jobs and opposition to relocation, Ma stated that "If you come to Taipei City, I will look upon you as human beings. I will look upon you as Taipei City residents. I will educate you well and provide you with opportunities."
Ma also told the Sijhou Community residents that "indigenous people need to change their mentalitys" and "if you come here, you need to play by the game rules of this place."
Filmed in its entirety by Taiwan Indigenous TV, Ma's paternalistic remark that "I will treat you as people" betrayed his retention of a hierarchal mentality, but the former Taipei City mayor and ex-KMT chairman compounded his error by stating that "I will educate you really well" and stating that "indigenous people do not have any problems with their genes, but only with opportunities," a quip that crossed the line into overt racism.
The KMT presidential candidate was immediately slammed with justly angry criticism from indigenous peoples leaders and, not surprisingly, governing Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh, who said Wednesday that the Hong Kong-born Ma's remarks reflected an "obvious discrimination" and were "extremely ignorant."
Ma's first reaction Wednesday afternoon was, typically, to engage in denial and protest that the TITV report had "distorted" his statements, but this response further incensed the indigenous community.
Aborigine rights groups held a protest in front of Ma's campaign headquarters yesterday morning and the serving and three former ministers of the Cabinet-level Council for Indigenous Peoples issued a joint statement yesterday afternoon demanding on behalf of Taiwan's over 480,000 indigenous citizens a formal apology from Ma for his "ignorant, arrogant and discriminatory statements."
Evidently after consultation with public relations specialists, Ma at least displayed the wisdom to apologize, but continued to insist that he was the best person to "take care" of Taiwan's indigenous people and had done much to help indigenous persons receive education and find housing.
Too late for pacification
However, a belated and superficial apology cannot disguise the fundamental reality that the KMT presidential candidate not only retains but has openly manifested an "arrogant and hegemonic" and even racist attitude toward Taiwan's indigenous peoples.
We are willing to give Ma the benefit of the doubt and believe he did not consciously intend to offend his audience and believe that his concern for the safety of the Sijhou Road squatters is genuine and merited given their location in a flood plain. But we also doubt whether Ma or his public relations advisers truly appreciate how grave a political error his statements are.
President Chen Shui-bian yesterday correctly observed that in normal democratic countries such remarks would be considered as "extremely racist" and could result in the resignation of an official or the withdrawal of a candidate from an election campaign.
Indeed, Ma's choice of words clearly reflected the elitism, paternalism, Han chauvinism and latent racism that is an ingrained part of the political culture of the Kuomintang and suffered by the vast majority of the Taiwan people, including our indigenous peoples.
After all, Ma could have used the language of equality and citizenship and stated that "if you live in Taipei City, you are residents of Taipei City and have equal rights as all other citizens, including provision of full opportunities for education and employment," and could have refrained from addressing indigenous citizens as if they were virtual pets and left out the wholly unnecessary and truly racist remark about "genes."
Ma's language also reflects the fact that neither he or most other KMT leaders have a genuine concept of citizenship, especially with regard to indigenous rights, as shown by the KMT's haughty refusal to support proposals for the addition of an article on indigenous peoples rights to the Constitution in 1994, 1997 and 2005.
Moreover, Ma's statements came on the heels of another insult directed at Taiwan's indigenous peoples by the KMT camp earlier this month, namely the decision by KMT Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-pin to post signs on Ketegalan Boulevard, the first street ever in Taiwan to be named for an indigenous tribe, and change its name to the political partisan "Anti-Corruption Road."
The bitter defense by Ma and Hau and other KMT stalwarts of the murderous legacy of the late KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek fuels deeper suspicion that the KMT camp simply is either unable or unwilling to re-examine its authoritarian and chauvinistic mind set.
To be sure, the DPP is not free from its own ethnic problems, namely a latent "Hoklo" chauvinism, but the Taiwan democratic party is at least conscious of such problems has taken concrete actions to recognize and foster ethnic pluralism, with moves that include the establishment of TITV and a fellow Hakka TV station and vigorous efforts to preserve and promote the use of Hakka and indigenous languages on the basis of equality.
Moreover, after decades of struggle, Taiwan's indigenous peoples have gained the power to engage in a "partnership" relationship with the DPP government and the legal rights to promote the sustainable development of indigenous peoples autonomous regions and the preservation and promotion of their endangered languages and culture.
While these gains are still far from sufficient to redress the wrongs of the past and ensure full respect for indigenous peoples rights, indigenous voters should consider the warning of the four CIP serving and former chairman and ask themselves whether we can afford to elect as national leader "a person whose mind is stuck in the mentality of "open the mountains and pacify the natives" and who would "turn the clock back 100 years."


Updated : 2021-08-04 05:48 GMT+08:00