Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Tens of thousands join Japan protests"

Broad dissatisfaction with govt's handling of Fukushima and restart of nuclear reactors
TOKYO - This is Japan's summer of discontent. Tens of thousands of protesters descend on Tokyo every Friday evening to shout anti-nuclear slogans at the Prime Minister's office.

"I used to complain about this to my family but I realised that doesn't do any good," said a protester. "So I came here to say this to his office. I don't know if we can make a difference but I had to do something, and at least it's a start."

The government's much-criticised handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis has spawned a new breed of protesters in Japan, especially after the government decided to restart two nuclear reactors in June.

Drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens rather than activists, they are a manifestation of a broader dissatisfaction with government and could create pressure for change in a political system that has long resisted it.

"All these years, lawmakers have only cared about vested interests, and that was good enough to run this country," said Mr Kiyomi Tsujimoto, an activist-turned-lawmaker.

"The government is still seen doing the same politics, and that's what people are angry about," he added.

Distrust of politics runs deep in Japan. Many think politicians are corrupt and only care about big business.

Some were angered about the recent sales tax hike and many are unhappy that the government has done little to reduce the American military presence on the southern island of Okinawa.

Still, there are signs of change. Many lawmakers have converted to supporting a nuclear-free future amid speculation that an election may be called soon and that nuclear policy will be a key campaign issue.

The government was also forced to step up transparency during town meetings to better reflect public views on energy policy in deciding to phase out nuclear power by 2030. AP

No comments: