TAIPEI-President Tsai Ing-wen opened the 2018 Austronesian Forum on Indigenous Peoples Day Aug. 1 in Taipei City, pledging to work with like-minded countries in strengthening exchanges while promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
Taiwan’s tribes are proud members of the Austronesian language family, Tsai said. It is hoped they can utilize shared cultural and historical ties with indigenous peoples throughout the region to advance more opportunities for dialogue on key issues like mutually beneficial sustainable development, she added.
The president made the remarks before attendees from 13 Pacific countries and territories. High-profile guests included Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Council of Indigenous Peoples Minister Icyang Parod and Secretary-General to the President Chen Chu.
Co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cabinet-level CIP, the one-day forum featured keynote addresses, roundtables and seminars on cultural, economic, political and social developments impacting the Austronesian-speaking world.
According to Tsai, she developed a deeper appreciation of the bonds between Taiwan’s tribes and indigenous peoples in the Pacific during her state visit last year to allies Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, as well as stopovers in Guam and Hawaii. The similarities in culture and customs enable multilateral initiatives such as the forum to more easily bring decision-makers together and create conditions for making lasting contributions to human development, she said.
The president said since taking office in May 2016, enhancing the rights of indigenous peoples has been one of the government’s top policymaking priorities. Milestones in this regard include establishment of the Presidential Office Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee, launch of the first radio catering primarily to indigenous peoples and promulgation of the Indigenous Languages Development Act.
Providing access to culturally sensitive education is another government goal, Tsai said, adding that this will help safeguard cultures and languages for future generations.
Indigenous Malayo-Polynesian peoples have lived in Taiwan for millennia, with archaeological evidence confirming their presence dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. The latest CIP statistics peg the population of the country’s 16 officially recognized tribes at around 530,000 or 2.3 percent of the nation’s total. (Taiwantoday).