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Taiwan: Whose land?


黑暗從眼睛
滑落心頭,
令人害怕的
失去光明的窒息,
圍繞四周。

燃燒莫那能排灣族詩人)作。

Darkness slides from my eyes
into my heart.
Scaring
suffocation without light
surrounds me.

Burning‘ by Mo-Na-Neng (a Paiwan poet)].

Smangus‘s battle for the unfair trial about the wind-fall beech, based on Smangus & Smangus Action Alliance News, can be traced back to October, 2005:

Terry the typhoon caused the damage to the only road that connected the neighboring areas. Smangus people cleaned the road with their own effort and put the windfall beech on the sideway. One month later, the staff of the Forestry Bureau chopped the wood into pieces and took them away secretly. Three of the Smangus youth transported the remains on behalf of the Tribal Committee for the purpose of community design. Consequently they were reported of stealing national woods. The accused became the accuser!

The Smangus people considered the charge a stigmatization of aboriginal people and decided to fight back in the court.

(Feb 24, 2007) The judge of the first instance ignored the Article 15 of the Forestry Act and the Aboriginal Basic Law which protect the indigenous rights, but instead, he convicted them by Article 52 of the Forestry Act. The penalty was 6 month imprisonment, a fine of NT$160, 000 for each person, with a two years probation. Smangus people cried, “Why don’t you put all of us in jail?” Therefore, the whole village went on the journey to plea for Not Guilty.

The main issue in this battle is ‘whose land is it?’ Smangus people consider the wind-fall beech is in their territory, but the Forestry Bureau doesn't agree. How do we decide who is the owner of the land?

In May 20-21, 2007, because Tayal people considered the wind-fall beech case a serious threats to the Tayal tribes, Pinhaban, a traditional cultural ceremony, was held to make alliance among the villages to protect their territories. In the conference (based on The statements and declaration, from the conference of Pinhaban Alliance, the chief of the village of Mrqwang said:

We indigenous peoples are knowledgeable of our own traditional territories. We can accurately describe the landscapes of the mountains and the rivers in them. We name those natural objects and connect our own lives so closely with the surroundings. The staff of the Forestry Bureau does not understand our lives. When we heard the staff say that the traditional territory of Smangus is only about 12 acres, we regarded the notion absurd. The territory is absolutely larger than this measure.

Munch commented on this issue:

誰的山林?一直存在爭議。
從日本人強收山林,國民政府承繼遵行,原住民的傳統領域,始終成為被擱置的話題,在不斷族群正名以示尊重的心態下,就像掛上好看門牌,家園卻永遠不屬於自己的,林務局是山林裡的大地主,原住民每個人都清楚

Whose mountain is it? Whose forest is it? This is always a controversial question.
Both Japan government and this government confiscated the mountains, and the ownership of the traditional land of the aboriginal people is always an ignored issue. Although there are many name-rectification actions that showed the respect to the aboriginal people, these actions only put on a beautiful doorplate while they don't have proper ownership of their homeland. All the aboriginal people know that the Forest Bureau is the largest landlord of the mountain.

對原住民而言,司馬庫斯櫸木事件,不是刑罰輕重,而是對於原住民領域及文化的尊重,他們堅持的是無罪判決,沒有人可以否定他們對於山林家園的權力。

To aboriginal people, the seriousness of the penalty is not the point. They care about the respect toward their territory and their culture. They insist to plea for not guilty, because no one can deny their right on their land.

In September 28, 2007, ignoring the Smangus people's claim and the Forestry Act and the Aboriginal Basic Law, the judge in the High Court decided to keep the original conviction but alleviate the punishment.

In press release held by Smangus & Smangus Action Alliance News, Pinhaban Alliance, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, and Wild at heart, Legal Defense Association, Wild at heart, Legal Defense Association said,

今天的判決是一個醜陋的妥協。因為,如果法院認定三人有罪,那麼根據《森林法》,結夥並使用搬運設備竊取林產物,應加重判刑,為何法官卻做出減輕刑責的判決?如果法官已體認到原住民族價值系統中人對自然的善待、和諧、永續與責任,為何沒有勇氣做出無罪判決?

Today's conviction is an ugly compromise. If the judge decided these three people committed crime based on the Forestry Act because they stole the nature resource in the forestry, the judge should aggravate the punishment. On the other hand, if the judge recognized the way the aboriginal people treat the nature: kindness, harmony, sustainability, and responsibility, why did the judge not have the courage to agree with the not guilty plea?

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