JCP team talks with Minamata Disease patients

Next year will be the 50th year since the government officially acknowledged disease from eating fish in areas surrounding Minamata Bay in the Kyushu region as patients were poisoned by the injection of organic mercury.

Through several court trials lasting many years, Minamata-based Chisso Corporation, the state, and the prefectural government were found guilty for having allowed the poisoning to spread.

Following the third round of major law suits, patients reached a settlement in 1995 with the central government concerning comprehensive relief measures, including the payment of a temporary compensation by Chisso and free medical care for about 15 thousand patients.

Even after the 2004 Supreme Court ruling, more than 2,000 patients have applied to the state to recognize them as Minamata patients. Still, there are about 25,000 patients in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures who are not officially recognized as victims of Minamata Disease.

A Japanese Communist Party team led by Secretariat Head Ichida Tadayoshi visited Minamata City in Kumamoto Prefecture on June 10 and 11. He inquired after patients, held talks with local government officers, and exchanged views with patients' organizations.

Mayor Eguchi Ryuichi of Minamata City stated that the central government should relieve and treat all patients, not the officially certified alone, including their aftercare. The city assembly's president wanted the JCP to play an active role in the Diet to achieve this end.

Referring to the assembly's unanimous resolution calling for the comprehensive resolution of the issue, Ichida promised to make every effort in their behalf.

Ichida and his team visited a city-run institute as well as private institutes to express sympathy and hand flowers to the patients.

The JCP team held talks with various Minamata disease patient organizations. Oishi Toshio, Shiranui's Minamata Disease Patients Association chair, stated that some, who had to give up applying for official certificates as Minamata Disease patients because they were anxious about their sons and daughters losing marriage opportunities or being bullied, finally made applications following the 2004 Supreme Court decision.

Minamata Disease Mutual Aid Association Chair Isayama Shigeru said, "My wife with Minamata disease experiences acute pains twice an hour, living just on rice porridge and nutrient supplements. We need official relief."

Ichida also held talks with representatives of the National Liaison Council of Minamata Disease Victims and the Minamata Disease Patients Federation. Welcoming the initial visit of a JCP leader, Sasaki Kiyoto, president of the latter, stated, "It has often been said that the Minamata Disease is over. It is untrue. The JCP is encouraged to make the utmost efforts for the complete resolution of the matter."

Ichida said, "I've fully understood how serious the patients' situations and demands are. The JCP is determined to make every effort in their behalf in and out of the Diet." -Akahata, June 12, 2005

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