Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 6-12, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of May 6 - 12, 2009

Chile: Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Chile this morning, during which 51 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

For use of information media; not an official record

• The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by the Chile this morning, during which 51 Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

• This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on the Republic of Congo, following the review of the country on Wednesday, 6 May.

• Presenting the national report of Chile was JOSE ANTONIO VIERA-GALLO, Minister Secretary-General of the Presidency of Chile, who recalled that in 1990 his country embarked on the reconstruction of a democratic system based on respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural -, valuing their universality, indivisibility and interdependence. Read more about human rights in Chile here....

New Zealand: Maori Party Welcomes UN Report On Maori Human Rights

The co-leaders of the Maori Party have welcomed the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council which has recommended our government better protect Maori rights.

The report was published in Geneva last night in response to a report from a delegation from New Zealand led by Justice Minister Simon Power.

Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples says, "I hope people will read the full report of the UN Human Rights Council. I congratulate our government on the frankness of the report Minister Power gave to the UN council. I am happy to say that Maori people were consulted, and the Maori Party had input into that report."

Co-leader Tariana Turia says she supports the report and says people should not be surprised by the UN council's decisions, which would improve our government's performance in international eyes.

"I commend the commitment of Treaty workers, iwi trust boards and other NGOs whose hard work has been recognised in the quality of the recommendations from the Human Rights Council."

"The appointment of two Maori Party Ministers, who support a whanau ora approach to Maori development, will help progress on reducing disparities between Maori and non-Maori, in key portfolios of education, health Maori Affairs and social development," said the co-leaders. Read more about the human rights report here....

Malaysia: Highest Court Affirms Tribes' Land Rights

Malaysia's highest court has affirmed a ruling granting land rights to indigenous people that could help them resist oil and logging companies razing their ancestral forests, a lawyer said Sunday.

A panel of three Federal Court judges unanimously ruled that tribes have customary ownership of land they have lived on for generations and state governments cannot take it from them without compensation, said See Chee How, a prominent land rights lawyer.

"It is a landmark decision," said See of Tuesday's ruling. "It's the first time the Federal Court has affirmed (such) a decision."

See said he hoped this would bode well for more than 100 other land rights cases still pending in court. Land rights are a key concern for the country's indigenous people, many of whom have been pushed off land without compensation by state governments to make way for development.

State governments claim the tribes have no legal rights to their ancestral land, which is owned by the state. But the tribes, who mostly live in poor settlements in the jungles on Borneo island, argue that the land is theirs because they have lived on it for generations. Read more about the land rights decision here....

Taiwan: Pingpu Tribe Natives Demand Recognition Of Their Aboriginal Status

Aren’t Pingpu natives considered Taiwanese aboriginals too? However, according an announcement by the Legislative Yuan on April 29th, Pingpu aboriginals’ names do not comply with regulations on the format for aboriginal names. As a result, Taiwanese government does not consider Pingpu aboriginals as an aboriginal group and they do not enjoy the rights and privileges granted to other aboriginal groups.

A crowd of roughly 5,000 people gathered in front of the Presidential Palace on May 2nd to hold a press conference, protest this matter and voice their concern to President Ma. The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) also took part and Associate General Secretary Sing ‘Olam said such a misguided interpretation of the law not only disregards Pingpu as Taiwanese aboriginals but also shows utter disrespect toward Pingpu tribes.

Crowds of protesters gathered in front of the Presidential Palace holding signs and shouting slogans to rebut the Legislative Yuan’s announcement. Sing ‘Olam said denying the reality of Pingpu’s existence throughout Taiwanese history is an offense against God’s creation. “Humans cannot choose their lineage because it is determined by God and unchangeable,” he said. He demanded that the government issue an apology and rectify their decision by allowing Pingpu aboriginals to restore their aboriginal names.

Sing ‘Olam berated the Ma administration for denying the existence of Pingpu aboriginals in Taiwan through legislation, while simultaneously using underhanded tactics to force Taiwanese people into accepting the administration’s position that “Taiwanese people are also Chinese people”. He reiterated the PCT’s support for the recognition of Pingpu aboriginals and the restoration of their original names.

Protesters chanted “We are Pingpu!” and sang aboriginal songs during the rally. Many of them wore aboriginal attire, sang native songs, and some even danced to the tune of Siraya music to demonstrate that Pingpu culture had not faded from Taiwanese history.

Banners displaying the name of PCT churches could be seen among the crowd at the rally, including churches from Tainan Presbytery such as Kau-Pi Church. These banners served as a reminder that many Pingpu aboriginals are Christians who have been in Taiwan from the very beginning. When missionaries came to Taiwan in the 19th century, many aboriginals accepted Christ. To this day, many PCT churches in rural areas are filled with Pingpu aboriginals. Though their culture and lifestyle may have changed significantly over the years, their presence has never left Taiwan.

During the rally, Siraya Association Secretary General Wan Shu-chuan, who is also a member of Kau-Pi Church, and other supporters delivered a petition letter to the Presidential Palace and were met inside by a public affairs official. Read more on the Pingu struggle here....

Indigenous NGOs, President Jagdeo Meet On Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy

President Bharrat Jagdeo met with representatives of indigenous Non Governmental Organisations on May 8, to discuss Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) which is scheduled to be launched this month - end.

Represented at the meeting were Jean La Rose and Lawrence Anselmo of the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), Peter Persaud of the Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana (TAAMOG), Pamela Mendonca and Ashton Simon from the National Amerindian Development Fund (NADF); and Jocelyn Dow representing the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as independent consultants on behalf of the Government of Norway. Also in attendance were Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai and Chairman of the National Climate Committee Shyam Nokta.

President Jagdeo outlined that the LCDS will provide the broad framework of Guyana’s response to climate change and will hinge, in particular on Guyana deploying its forests to mitigate global climate change. Read more on Guyana and indigenous NGOs here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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