World’s First! Kolas Yotaka Proposes Amendments to Legalize Romanized Spelling of Indigenous Names and Statements of Political Position

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Photo: February 1, 2016. When Kolas Yotaka reported for duty, the attendance book was designed for vertical traditional Chinese character signatures. However, when Kolas Yotaka insisted on her horizontal signature of her Pangcah (also known as Amis) traditional name, the employees at the Legislative Yuan had to scramble to change the orientation of the attendance book to allow Kolas to sign. This is not the first time this situation has happened. This is just one of many inconveniences Indigenous People face every day that hopefully changes in laws will help to alleviate.

Taipei, Taiwan: On the eve of 2016 International Mother Language Day, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) indigenous Legislator Kolas Yotaka has proposed draft amendments to the Name Act and Civil Servants Election and Recall Act. Before the February 19th start of the legislative session, the two draft amendment bills have already been proposed with DPP Legislators Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) as the two other cosponsors. The Name Act draft amendment has garnered 21 signatures and the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act draft amendment has 22 signatures from other legislators. The draft amendment bills have been sent to the Procedure Committee to be slated into the bill agenda to be deliberated. Kolas stated, “If the bills pass the three readings, Taiwan will become the first to recognize and legalize indigenous language orthography and write a new page into Taiwan’s indigenous history.”

If the two amendment proposals pass, when Indigenous Peoples choose to use their traditional names, their Taiwanese ID will no longer require traditional Chinese characters offset by roman letters to represent their names. They will have a choice to use the orthography that best represents their indigenous writing system, which is commonly known as the Roman or Latin alphabet and symbols along with specialized characters. Indigenous citizens would also be able to see political positions of indigenous candidates in their election bulletins in indigenous languages along with traditional Chinese characters. Kolas asserted, “I insist on using my authentic traditional name that uses the Roman alphabet to spell out Kolas Yotaka, though it is oftentimes not recognized in official capacity which causes a lot of inconvenience. These amendments are absolutely necessary and will play an important role in the preservation of Taiwan’s indigenous languages.”

Knowledgeable about international indigenous rights, Kolas stated that in Europe and the Americas there have been many Indigenous Peoples who want to use their traditional names but have been rejected by their government due to usage of non-standard characters. Taiwan is no exception. Over the past 400 years, Taiwan has been colonized by the Dutch, the Spanish, the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese, and the Republic of China’s government. The Indigenous Peoples were forbidden to speak or write their indigenous languages. During the Japanese rule, the Japanese forced the Indigenous Peoples to use Japanese names. In modern times, the Republic of China government allowed the Department of Civic Affairs employees to arbitrarily give names and surnames to Indigenous Peoples while they were applying for their Household Registrations. This preposterous practice led to Indigenous Peoples in the same family having different surnames. In the 1990s, the Taiwanese government finally opened up regulations to allow Indigenous Peoples to legally use their traditional names but stipulated that Indigenous Peoples must use traditional Chinese characters to write their traditional names. This unfair practice must be stopped.

In 2006, the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan had established a unified, official orthography for Taiwan’s indigenous languages. Through indigenous language education, indigenous primary school children are now familiar with the orthography and official testing for indigenous languages is held using this writing method. Kolas claimed that this orthography is not only the most common to Austronesian languages but also the most practical. Without developing their own written language, there are many vocabulary instances within the indigenous languages that cannot be expressed or pronounced using traditional Chinese characters or Japanese characters. The use of Roman alphabet and other specialized characters is the best way to write Taiwan’s indigenous languages. Currently, because the current Name Act stipulates the usage of traditional Chinese characters to register names, Indigenous Peoples have had to use a strange combination of traditional Chinese characters to represent their names. The awkward combination of words often led to ridicule. This is yet another example of how Indigenous Peoples are marginalized.

世界首創!Kolas Yotaka修法以「羅馬字」命名、發表政見

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圖說:2016年2月1日Kolas Yotaka到立法院就職時,簽到簿是以漢文慣用的直式書寫設計,但Kolas Yotaka堅持以橫式拼音書寫阿美族傳統姓名,立法院工作人員手忙腳亂地將簽到本轉向,Kolas才能完成簽名。這樣的情況不是第一次,生活中的不方便經常出現在許多台灣原住民族的生活中,如今可望透過修法改善。

就在2/21世界母語日(International Mother Language Day)前夕,民進黨原住民籍立法委員Kolas Yotaka已在立法院正式提案「姓名條例修正草案」與「公職人員選罷法修正草案」。在19日立院開議日之前,兩案皆已連署成案,民進黨蕭美琴委員與鄭麗君委員為共同提案人,已獲得跨黨派立委超過21人連署,即將送進立法院並排入議程進行實質審查。Kolas表示,若順利修法三讀通過,台灣將成為世界上第一個願意立法肯認原住民族書寫系統的國家,也將為台灣的原住民族寫下歷史新頁。

未來兩案若通過,原住民族回復傳統名字時,國民身份證不一定要使用中文並列書寫系統,可選擇僅以原住民族書寫系統(俗稱「羅馬字」的羅馬拚音)登記原住民族傳統名字,且選舉公報上可以各族書寫系統寫出族語政見與漢字政見併列。Kolas本人長期堅持僅使用書寫系統「Kolas Yotaka」書寫自己的姓名,生活中經常不被認同,造成許多困擾,但她認為改革是必要的,此次修法也將會是台灣保存原住民族語言的重大進展。

熟悉國際原住民族相關法案的Kolas表示,不論在歐洲或美洲都還陸續發生原住民族想要回復傳統姓名並以符號書寫,卻遭政府拒絕的案例,台灣也不例外。過去四百年來台灣歷經荷蘭、西班牙、清國、日本、以至於中華民國政府統治,原住民族遭禁止聽說讀寫原住民族的語言,日治時期強迫原住民族取日文姓名,國民政府來台後也發生戶政事務所承辦人任意為原住民族取漢名的荒謬事件,以至於同一家人的孩子可能有不同的姓氏….等。即使1990年代台灣政府己開放原住民族回復傳統名字,但依照現行法規,但原住民族仍被迫以「漢字」書寫「傳統」姓名。Kolas表示,這種不正義的現象必須要被改善。

2006年原住民族委員會已發布原住民族語言「書寫系統」,透過族語教學,台灣的原住民族國小學童多已熟悉書寫系統,官方舉辦的族語認證考試也皆以書寫系統命題與作答。Kolas表示書寫系統不但是官方發布的準文字,在實務上也已相當普及。台灣原住民族的語言屬於南島語系的語言,但沒有發展出文字,許多詞彙的發音無法以漢字或日語呈現,只能以羅馬字母與新創的符號來表達,目前因為不能使用書寫系統登錄姓名,導致許多原住民族人被迫使用奇怪的漢字組合傳統姓名,經常被非原住民族取笑,反而是對原住民族的再次傷害。

由Kolas Yotaka主提案的「姓名條例修正草案」與「公職人員選罷法修正草案」已正式成案,即將於立法院排入議程進行實質審查。Kolas表示這是世界級的立法,不但原住民族很期待,相信也可以獲得非原住民族的支持。