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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 18 - 24  > Time to show zero tolerance for violence
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2007 April 18 - 24 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Time to show zero tolerance for violence

April 19, 2007
The assassination of the Nagasaki City mayor makes it urgent for the whole society, in particular political parties and politicians, to show their determination that they will not tolerate such an act of defiance against freedom and democracy.

The killing of Nagasaki City Mayor Itoh Iccho in a shooting during his election campaign is a heinous crime unheard of in Japan’s political history since the end of World War II. The task now is for the whole society, in particular political parties and politicians, to show their determination that they will not tolerate such an act of defiance against freedom and democracy.

On April 17, in a published comment on the incident, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo only said, “I hope that investigators will get to the truth behind the incident.” He gave no words of criticism or indignation at this act of violence.

On the following day, Abe modified the comment he issued the previous day. He said, “Resorting to an act of violence during the election campaign is an attack on democracy and must not be condoned for any reason.” However, his initial reaction was extraordinary at a time when political leaders of opposition as well as ruling parties in their statements were condemning violence, including a statement published soon after the incident by Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo.

Journalist Torigoe Shuntaro on a TV program criticized Abe’s comment regarding the incident. He said, “That is not a kind of comment a prime minister should make on a politician’s death in gun violence during an election campaign. At the least he should have stood firm against the crime by stating that it is a challenge to a democratic society and it must not be condoned for any reason.”

Faced with increasing criticism not only from the media but from among politicians, the prime minister’s spokesman made an excuse saying, “The prime minister feels the same way though his comment was a bit short.”

However, this was not the first time that the prime minister showed how insensitive he is to acts of violence.

When former Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party Kato Koichi’s parents’ house was burnt down last August in an arson attack by a rightist denouncing Kato for opposing the prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, Abe, chief cabinet secretary at the time, and then Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro kept silent for two weeks about the incident. Due to growing criticism from within the LDP for their lack of sensitivity, Koizumi finally stated, “Suppression of freedom of speech with violence must never be condoned.” Abe was also compelled to state, “I want to wait for what investigators might say. If the crime was committed for the purpose of suppressing Kato’s opinion, it is absolutely unacceptable.”

In 2003, a bomb was planted at the house of a high-ranking foreign ministry official who was Japan’s chief negotiator in talks aimed at normalizing relations with North Korea. Commenting on this incident, Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro showed his tolerance toward this act of violence by saying, “It is not surprising.”

If this kind of tolerance persists, violence and lawlessness will not be eliminated from Japan. The arson attack against the ex-LDP secretary general who was critical of the prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the 1990 shooting of then Nagasaki Mayor Motoshima Hitoshi in connection with his statement that the emperor is responsible for the war show that violent attacks on the freedom of speech have taken place in conjunction with the increasing adverse current that justifies Japan’s past war of aggression.

The freedom of speech is an essential to democracy. In defending the freedom of political activities, it is necessary to eradicate the tendency that tolerates violence. It is time for the political world to show zero-tolerance for violence. - Akahata, April 19, 2007
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