Date of this Version
August 27, 2009 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
Siaolin’s survivors are in the midst of grappling with three main issues: mourning the dead, coping with current difficulties, and planning for the future (see the online chats about these issues on Siaolin’s own website, the 甲仙鄉小林社區入口網). On August 21, I attended two meetings with Professor Chien Wen-min 簡文敏 and his colleagues (林清財, 吳旭峰, 段洪坤, 張東炯, 黃智慧, 潘英海, 簡炯仁, 謝世憲). The first meeting focused on the needs of Siaolin’s villagers, who were preparing a petition to present to President Ma when he attended mourning rituals the next day. Consensus was reached on three main points, namely requesting the government allow disaster victims to participate in reconstruction planning, simplify the compensation process for survivors, and commit to Siaolin’s cultural reconstruction. The goal of the second meeting was to lay the groundwork for the formation of the Association for the Reconstruction of Siaolin and its Plains Aborigine Culture (小林平埔文化重建協會), which is currently submitting an application to the government for formal approval. The next morning (8/22) began with an early morning visit to the site of the disaster, which we timed to avoid the usual political theatrics that took place when President Ma attended the 二七 mourning rituals for the nearly 500 victims of the Siaolin mudslide. Accusations of blame for theslow disaster responsecontinue, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this tragedy was also a result of 921 Earthquake (which loosened soil in terrain consisting largely of volcanic ash mountains), poor land management policies, and illegal land exploitation, all of which set the stage for the horrific events that accompanied unprecedented rainfall. At this point, the challenge for Taiwan’s government will be to institute and enforce land policies that take the interests (and voices) of disaster victims into account, especially the south’s Aboriginal peoples.