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Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011
HOTLINE TO NAGATACHO
Decent man Kan dealing with LDP's fallout
Dear Prime Minister Naoto Kan,
I really have to hurry sending you this letter, because you are running out of time. Having been an observer of the Japanese political theater for several decades, I would like to get a few things off my chest.
While the media and the opposition will use any opportunity to blame you for having a severe lack of managerial skills, I am hesitant to accept that you deserve all their criticism.
Of course, as prime minister during this tumultuous period, you are in a prime position to be bullied, functioning as a convenient scapegoat for the noisy Liberal Democratic Party opposition, as well as being battered in regular opinion polls. But it must be said that almost nobody could reasonably be expected to competently coordinate a response to the unexpectedly complex series of difficulties caused by the 3/11 disasters.
The story of how Japan got into this current mess does not begin on March 11, 2011. In the late 1960s, on the LDP's watch, the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant was built on a site that was originally a hill 35 meters above sea level. Tepco cut away the bluff by some 25 meters and even dug down a further 14 meters to install a basement level.
As Swedish Count Axel Oxenstierna warned in 1648, "Don't you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"
Unscrupulous business arrogance together with lax, corrupt regulation reigned during these years. Opportunism, hollow promises and greed set the perverted parameters of LDP policy, which is why each newborn Japanese enters the world already weighed down by ¥7 million in national debt.
I feel like the small child in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes," rhetorically shouting, "Is this not structurally criminal behavior?"
Prime minister, you deserve far more respect for at least trying to clean up the incredible 3/11 mess, but more than that for tackling the half-century's worth of accumulated toxic rubble left by the LDP masqueraders, infected with a pestilence that's the byproduct of their collaborative graft, swindling and profligate "public works" largesse.
3/11 has opened up the LDP's Pandora's box. What is the justice minister waiting for? Criminal investigations should start right away. Lawmakers should not be above the law. Don't we live in a country whose Constitution professes to treat everyone equally under the law? Is there an unwritten exception for bandits? It must be officially brought to the attention of the Japanese population that the LDP left Japan with a legacy that, as Fukushima demonstrates, is still cancerous.
Polls still show more voters support the LDP than the DPJ, which is dangerous and stupid. The Japanese citizens should not be thrown to the wolves again!
You are clumsy and a far-from-competent national coordinator — your wife warned everybody about this right from the start — but you also are a decent person, a quality that I have not been able to discern among all the LDP actors who have disgraced the political stage during the last 50 years.
A decent man forced to play the part of the LDP's garbage collector deserves to be cast in a better light.
DOLF VAN GRAAS
Japan deserves better than this; Kan, go now
Dear Prime Minister Naoto Kan,
"In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve."
These are the famous words penned by Alexis de Tocqueville more than 1½ centuries ago. The wisdom and profundity of these words can hardly be disputed. I am quite sure you are familiar with them, as most of the well-read politicians are.
Over a year ago, Yukio Hatoyama resigned and you became prime minister. The transition of power from Hatoyama to you was quite smooth and orderly, and I was hopeful that you would be somewhat more pragmatic than your predecessor.
But soon after the trophy was passed on to you, with the aim of raising the support rate of your administration in the opinion polls, you started a political campaign of hounding out Ichiro Ozawa and his supporters, portraying him as a dirty politician by manipulating the media — which was more than willing to oblige, as Ozawa seemed to be their bete noire.
However, like it or not, the fact is that Ozawa was not only one of the key players in your team, but the scorer of the winning goal when your team won the trophy. And while holding the trophy aloft, you had the temerity to suggest that, if I may use the soccer terminology, Ozawa did not score the goal with his head but with his hand. In a sense, Ozawa responded by saying that it was the "hand of God," a la Maradona! Granted that Ozawa is dirty, but who is not among politicians? Apparently, you thought that you were clean and as handsome as Narcissus.
As a result, the Democratic Party of Japan became disunited, and your own political base weakened. You should have known that the media is a double-edged sword. Eventually, your own scandal came out and you were on the verge of falling victim to it, but you were saved by the disastrous Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Ironically, that was a good chance for you to redeem yourself as you got a grace period, with carte blanche to demonstrate your abilities while the whole nation was prepared to follow your lead in tackling the natural catastrophe that had befallen the nation. But alas, you failed to realize the gravity of the catastrophe, and instead of taking charge you squandered precious time in handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis and occupied yourself with appointing numerous advisers and setting up redundant panels — as if Japan is a country without any system to face national exigencies. It appeared as if you needed advisers to decide on what type of advisers you need and whom to choose.
Mr. Prime Minister, if you really need good, honest, unvarnished advice, you just have to invite the bona fide experts in any field to your office to get their opinion free of charge. Once you have appointed a person as an official adviser, he/she is more likely to tell you what you want to hear rather than what you should know. I am not a legal expert but I believe there must be some mechanisms in place that can be activated in times of emergencies and that enable the prime minister to take charge and make timely decisions.
And then, on June 2, you had to plead at a meeting of lawmakers from your ruling DPJ before a no-confidence vote in the Lower House, and barely escaped the utter humiliation of being ousted from the post of prime minister. In pleading with your teammates to oppose the no-confidence motion, you essentially admitted that you were not up to the job as prime minister and pledged to step down from the post once the tsunami damage reconstruction efforts are on track. In fact, it was a sort of plea bargain with your opponents in your own party implying that your departure would be imminent if you avoided being voted out of office in the Diet.
But no sooner than the no-confidence motion had been voted down, you seemed to twist your pledge and change your mind. As a result, you have been pilloried by none other than your decades-long comrades-in-arms, with whom you have been through thick and thin. It is rather pathetic to see the prime minister of Japan in such a situation.
There is no reason for you to carry on any longer. It amounts to a disservice to the country if you do, because it will not be in the interest of the nation. Those you negotiate with inside and outside of Japan will no longer trust you.
Having said all this, I must congratulate you for having completed one year in the office of the prime minister of Japan — a milestone four immediate predecessors failed to achieve! It should be a consolation for you and go down as your crowning achievement in the modern history of Japan.
In conclusion, let me quote the words "the people get the government they deserve" by Alexis de Tocqueville once again. How true and how relevant.
Personally, I think the intelligent and hard-working people of Japan deserve better. So do many, many people inside and outside of Japan
Don't you think so too, Mr. Prime Minister?
U THET TUN
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