Even in times of crisis, Japanese political parties can barely summon the kind of bipartisan unity needed to address the situation. There are lessons for Taiwan in this
No sooner had Japan’s opposition parties proffered their unity in the midst of the national emergency following last week’s powerful earthquake than the same players were resuming the finger pointing and sniping of old, nipping cheers over bipartisan cooperation in the bud and showing why Japan and other regional democracies have been at a standstill.
Initially there was reason for optimism that the political landscape could have been fundamentally altered after the magnitude of the catastrophe became more obvious to all. Amid what Tokyo has called the worst calamity to hit the nation since World War II, the Democratic Party of Japan and its main rival, the Liberal Democratic Party, decided to put differences aside and agreed to discuss an emergency tax increase to fund disaster relief.
As related bills must be passed by April 1 to ensure the swift implementation of the massive relief package that will be required for reconstruction, such unity was essential, and on Sunday Japan’s second-largest opposition party, the New Komeito, said it was also willing to cooperate.
This contrasted sharply with the situation on Friday, where hours before the magnitude 8.9 earthquake hit off the east coast of Japan, sparking a major tsunami, both opposition parties were calling for the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, seen as deeply unpopular and accused of illegally receiving campaign funds.
My editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.
Sadly, it looks like Democratic Progressive Party legislators couldn’t help it and now have accused President Ma Ying-jeou of going to a hot spring on the night of the catastrophic earthquake in Japan. Echoes of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators berating Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu over her afternoon nap in the midst of Typhoon Fanapi last year.
Of course, this silly finger-pointing — the very target of my editorial above — pales in comparison to comments by Chao Chih-hsun (趙志勳), office director to KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), at the weekend, who wrote on Facebook that he would “even like to attack Tokyo and kill tens of millions of people” and that Japan should “return the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), then we will consider giving aid … Let the bastards Hui [former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝)] and Ling [Japan-based Taiwan independence advocate Alice King (金美齡)] pay; it’s [Japan] their motherland.”
Politics, politics … whether the poison finds its source in short-term gain or the nefarious wells of hatred, they all too often smother humanity and compassion.