July 23-29, 2012
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
The torrential rain various regions across Taiwan experienced on June 11 of this year had a devastating effect on Taoyuan Area in Kaohsiung City. The area, which includes many indigenous boroughs, had already been struggling since Typhoon Morakot wreaked havoc in 2009. In the wake of the recent rainstorm, as many as 1,500 residents, have been without power for almost 40 days when the storm damaged power lines. Before this, Taoyuan was already struggling to recover and rebuild because of extensive damages from Typhoon Morakot
According to reports, calls for help to Taiwan Power Corporation in the past month have been ignored, prompting PCT member and former Kaohsiung County Councilor Hsieh Kuei-lai to transport supplies to various areas to help local residents. Unfortunately, Hsieh fell off a cliff during one of these trips and died. The incident became the last straw for many Bunun residents, who travelled down the mountain to protest against Taipower on July 17 at its regional office.
After travelling for 5 hours, about 50 indigenous people and their borough leader protested in front of Taipower’s Fengshan regional office. They held a large poster with their complaints and requests written on it and vowed that they would take their grievances to the national government and lodge a formal complaint.
In response to this outpouring of dissatisfaction, Taipower finally sprung to action and electricity was restored 2 days later to the delight indigenous residents . Commenting on Taipower’s response, the borough leader said, “It’s not that they are unable to do it, rather, they are unwilling to do it!” He added that Taipower had grown cocky and arrogant over the years and its sluggish response was also a result of discrimination against indigenous people. If the complaint had been filed by an urban entrepreneur, it would have been dealt with differently.
South Bunun Presbytery’s General Secretary Rev. Ibu said that former Kaohsiung councilor and Lavulang Presbyterian Church elder, Hsieh Kui-lai, had been helping local residents in Taoyuan by transporting supplies from boroughs located in the foothills to various churches located higher up in the mountains. Hsieh accidentally fell off a cliff during one of these trips and later died in the hospital. Ibu said that other borough leaders suspect that road conditions, including tall grass and badly built side roads, are to blame for this fatal accident. The road conditions also delayed paramedics’ rescue efforts to save Hsieh.