In the House of Representatives plenary session on October 29, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo questioned Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio regarding the issues of people’s livelihoods, welfare services, agriculture, fiscal resources, and U.S. military bases in Okinawa.
Shii was speaking on behalf of the JCP as “an opposition party pursuing Japan’s democratic change with solid policy proposals,” as well as the party willing and able to respond to the expectations, anxieties, and criticisms of the public regarding the Democratic Party-led government inaugurated two months ago.
Welcoming the House of Representatives general election result that gave birth to the DPJ-led government of Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, Shii stated that the new government must make clear if it is determined to eradicate the adverse effects of the former Liberal Democratic Party-led government.
On the jobs problem, Shii demanded that the government take urgent steps to relieve jobless workers and their families so that they will not be left to survive on the streets in the coming winter, and to revise labor laws to regulate major corporations’ arbitrary dismissals and to ensure the dignity of workers.
The JCP chair maintained that interim measures must be taken to secure contingent workers rights, saying that these will provide temporary protection while related laws are being finalized. As a next step, the government should make an overall revision of the Worker Dispatch Law so that more workers in Japan can have the opportunity to be employed as full-time workers.
Prime Minister Hatoyama responded by saying that the government will direct corporations to fully abide with the labor laws.
He said that the government will submit a bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law that will include a provision banning manufacturers from using temporary workers, and that preparation is under way to submit the revision proposal by the Welfare and Labor Ministry panel.
Shii also took up the issue of the medical welfare service system for the elderly 75 and older, the worst ever system imposed by the previous government with the aim of cutting welfare budgets.
Shii demanded that such a cruel system that blatantly discriminates against the elderly 75 and over be immediately abolished.
While recognizing that the system is “unacceptable,” Hatoyama stated that abolishing the system must be delayed until a new system is established, because possible confusion may arise from its immediate abolition.
There was no answer from Hatoyama when Shii asserted that immediately abolishing the discriminatory health insurance system is the best way to eliminate major confusions arising from the present system.
The Hatoyama government wants to establish a rural income compensation system for individual farmers to go along with the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. However, once enacted, it will completely destroy Japan’s agriculture, Shii warned.
Japan’s agricultural policy with its abnormally low self-sufficiency rate can be improved upon if the government pays farmers subsidies that will ensure their economic survival and end trade liberalization measures that have opened Japan’s market to the major agribusinesses.
The prime minister, however, reiterated that he will push ahead with negotiations in order to conclude a free trade agreement with the United States.
Referring to cabinet ministers’ statements in favor of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa to somewhere else within the prefecture, JCP Shii stated that such statements contradict the DPJ pledge to move the air base to somewhere outside of Okinawa.
Shii criticized them for reneging its promise, saying, “Do you so easily succumb to U.S. threats? How can you then advocate a Japan-U.S. relation on an equal footing with a straight face?”
Shii stressed, “If you keep your promise to ‘respect Okinawans’ rejection (of the Futenma air base relocation within Okinawa), there is no alternative but to remove the base from the island.”
“We see no change away from the previous government’s subservience to the United States that reflects Japan’s basic foreign policy stance. The new government is called upon to sincerely accept Okinawans’ call for ‘No U.S. bases’ and to every effort to negotiate with the U.S. on behalf of Okinawans,” Shii argued.
Asserting that Japan still needs to depend on various deterrents provided by the U.S. forces in Japan, Hatoyama failed to express his government’s commitment to working to realize the decades-long wish of Okinawans to create an “Okinawa without U.S. bases.”
- Akahata, October 30, 2009