Friday, January 07, 2005

LDP wants parliament members to visit Yasukuni

The Liberal Democratic Party's policy goals for 2005 are
to revise the Fundamental Law of Education and urge
lawmakers to continue visiting Yasukuni Shrine, party
sources said Thursday.

The LDP is expected to adopt its platform for the year
at its Jan. 18 convention.

According to the sources, the draft of the platform says
the party "must pledge to realize" the revision of the
basic education law this year despite the controversy
over whether to refer to patriotism in the legislation.

A panel involving members of the LDP and its coalition
ally, New Komeito, has been working on how to refer to
patriotism in the law without stirring concerns about
reviving the fervent nationalism that marked Japan's
military rule before and during World War II.

The LDP's platform will not mention Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni, which China
strongly protests because it honors World War II war

However, the LDP policy says party members will continue
to go to the shrine to "thank and pay memorial tribute"
to the war dead and civilian victims of war.

The document also says the LDP will urge the government
to impose "severe" sanctions on North Korea in the event
bilateral talks regarding the issue of Japanese
nationals abducted by the North do not move forward
promptly, the sources said.

On the territorial dispute with Russia over a group of
islands off Hokkaido, the LDP will aim to resolve the
decades-long issue, saying the "pride of the ruling
political party" is at stake, the sources said.

The proposed platform recommends holding a workshop in
Hokkaido in March about the Russian-held islands, which
were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945, to inform the
public about the issue, they added.

Regarding Koizumi's postal privatization plans, the
platform falls short of fully supporting the plan of its
own president, due to internal opposition, and only says
the party will "make a final decision" through dialogue
with the government.

In his comments for the new year, Koizumi, the LDP's
president, expressed his determination to begin the
process of privatizing the state-backed Japan Post in
April 2007. Postal privatization is one of the pillars
of his structural reform drive.

The LDP will also repeat its plans to draft a revision
to the Constitution by its 50th anniversary in November.
(JT online)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Katchall Island, India : A 13 years old teen describes tsunami hell

"It's been the fifth day and nobody has come to recover
the dead bodies", Koshi Mackenroe writes from a lost
Island of Indian Ocean.

Across his tsunami-devastated island, his relatives,
friends and teachers lay dead, lost in water that
submerged his home. As Koshi Mackenroe John hunkered
down on a hill with his parents, there was little he
could do except wait for rescuers. So the 13-year-old
started writing letters.

From a forest in remote Katchall Island in India's
Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, Koshi wrote page after
page in his neat cursive handwriting, reporting the
devastation around him and pleading for help.

"Dear Uncle," read one letter dated Dec. 28, two days
after the tsunami. "Everything is over. ... About 2,000
acres of land was overwhelmed and destroyed by the
flood. We are starving over here and trying to send
messages because every communications center or station
is destroyed."

"I hope you will find this letter very soon... We need
an immediate rescue."

Two of Koshi's letters arrived this week in Port Blair,
capital of the island territory, carried by other
evacuees. Volunteer groups delivered them to his uncle
in the city. A volunteer group, Society for Andaman and
Nicobar Ecology, made them available to The AP.

Katchall Island was one of many in the 500-island chain
that was badly affected. Across the archipelago,
officials say more than 6,000 people are missing and
believed dead. India's official death toll is near

Koshi's family, indigenous Nicobarese tribesmen,
survived the waves that swept the island. Along with his
father John Paul, mother Esther and sister Munni, the
teenager scrambled to safety and took shelter on a hill.

From there, brokenhearted, they could see what the
furious waves had done to their island. His letters,
written in English and also sent to government
officials, describe a bleak scene.

"From the west side, only water and water can be seen,"
he wrote. "There is no sign of land or island in the
west. Over 2,600 people have died and more than 600
people are still missing. Less than 800 people have

The Nicobarese tribe, which numbered an estimated 30,000
people before the tsunami, is the archipelago's largest.
Unlike the five other tribes, who live a primitive and
isolated existence, most Nicobarese are Christian
converts and have been partly assimilated into
contemporary society. They live in villages led by a
headman and raise pigs, coconuts, yams and bananas. Many
have access to English-speaking schools.

In a line barely visible behind an ink blot, Koshi wrote
that teachers at his school were among the thousands

"All the teachers except Mrs. Evelyn (with her family),
Verghese and Molly Madam are dead," he said. Of his
extended family, 21 survived but many others were lost.

"We are the only survivors ... and Uncle Sylvester and
his wife too, but they couldn't save the lives of their
three children. Nuni and everyone are dead except two
kids. None from Livingstones' family has escaped.
Everyone is dead or missing except his son Anthony."

Two days after the disaster, a helicopter flew overhead,
raising the family's hopes. "Today the chopper was
flying over; we were signaling but the chopper didn't
land up here," he wrote.

News reached the family of destruction on the rest of
the island. One letter lists towns where no one
survived: Marine, West Bay Katchall, East Bay Katchall,
Ponda, Jansin, Hittat and Mottatapu.

They "have lost their lives completely," Koshi wrote.

Eventually, the Indian government began evacuating
survivors. A doctor was taken in a small boat to safer
ground on a neighboring island. Perhaps their turn would
come soon, Koshi wrote.

Mesmerized, the family listened to state-run All India
Radio for word of an imminent rescue or the fate of
their relatives on other islands.

Some relatives went searching for the bodies of family
members and friends. But none could be found.

"It was heard that Car Nicobar was fully destroyed. What
about our family members and (Uncle Peter) and his
family?" Koshi asked.

His story ended on an upbeat note. A second letter,
dated Dec. 31, expressed heart-felt relief that the
family was finally rescued by a ship searching for
survivors; they were taken to a relief camp on Camorta

Finally, he was safe, but the teenager still worried
about his home island.

"It's been the fifth day and nobody has come to recover
the dead bodies," he wrote.

"If the dead bodies won't be taken out or recovered,
then it's going to be disaster for those people living
there and struggling for life."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Indian Ocean : $20 million and 12 months to build Tsunami warning system

A tsunami warning system could be built in the Indian
Ocean in just a year and cost as little as $20 million
but experts warn the high-tech network of sensors and
buoys would be useless unless countries like Indonesia
beef up communications links to the coastal communities
that would be hit by giant waves.

Many coastal villages that bore the brunt of last
month's earthquake and tsunami lack modern communication
networks. Many don't even have telephones.

"There's no point in spending all the money on a fancy
monitoring and a fancy analysis system unless we can
make certain that the infrastructure for the broadcast
system is there," said Phil McFadden, chief scientist at
Geoscience Australia, which has been tasked with
designing an Indian Ocean system by the Australian

"That's going to require a lot of work," he said. "If
it's a tsunami, you've got to get it down to the last
Joe on the beach. This is the stuff that is really very

An Indian Ocean tsunami warning system is expected to
dominate January 6th gathering of leaders from stricken
nations and world donors following the Dec. 26
earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 150,000

Asian leaders including Japanese Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi - whose nation's $500 million pledge
makes it the biggest contributor so far - are to attend
Thursday's summit, along with U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and top
European Union officials.

A tsunami warning system already links 26 Pacific Ocean
nations. If it had been expanded to the Indian Ocean
coastal countries, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration might have been able to warn them, the
agency's chief, Conrad C. Lautenbacher, said last week.

Over the years, the United Nations and other agencies
that track tsunamis have endorsed establishing such a
system for the Indian Ocean. But the countries that
suffered the highest death tolls, like Indonesia and Sri
Lanka, say they lack the funds to finance such a system.

Among the dozen nations effected by the Dec. 26
earthquake and tsunami, only Indonesia received any
warning from NOAA, and then only indirectly through
Australia. Officials from the Pacific Ocean warning
system put out an advisory to their members and
attempted unsuccessfully to contact countries in the
path of the tsunami.

Thailand and Indonesia are pushing hard for the system.
Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said it
would help provide "security for tourists" that are the
lifeblood of southern Thailand.

McFadden said a system for the Indian Ocean basin would
cost from $15 million to $20 million and take 12 months
to build. It would include 30 seismographs to detect
earthquakes. Ten tidal gauges and six special DART (deep
ocean assessment and reporting of tsunamis) buoys would
also be needed determine whether an earthquake has
generated a tsunami, he said.

He estimates that each DART buoy will cost about
$250,000 initially, plus annual maintenance costs of up
to $50,000.

"My guess at this stage is probably about six DART
buoys, which is a fair amount of money," he said. "But
this amount of money is nothing compared to the cost of
what has happened."

But McFadden's figures do not include the cost and time
needed to upgrade communications networks in many
countries nor the process of educating local populations
unfamiliar with the dangers of tsunamis.

Japanese shrines and temples, a prey for counterfeiters

About 230 counterfeit 10,000 yen bills were used in
transactions in shops near shrines and temples in Tokyo
and 11 other prefectures from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.

Bank employees in Kyoto count the offerings at Fushimi
Inari Shrine over the first three days of the year.

The National Police Agency said Tuesday that the areas
were particularly crowded during this period with people
praying for good luck in 2005.

Police suspect that a single group is behind some of the
cases because the fake bills used in Osaka, Kyoto and
Hyogo prefectures had identical serial numbers. Those
found in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures also had the same

Japanese customarily visit shrines and temples at the
beginning of each year to pray for happiness. Many of
the bogus bills were spent in shops selling good-luck
amulets, fortunetelling papers, food and beverages at
shrines and temples.

All of the fake bills were apparently made using a color
copy machine, police said.

On Nov. 1, the government put in circulation new 10,000
yen, 5,000 yen and 1,000 yen notes with designs aimed at
combating counterfeiting.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Britain mulled ways to anglicize Japan's royal family

British officials, concerned about how Japan's
royal family was developing after World War II, examined
ways in 1954 of molding the institution along the lines
of its own monarchy, according to government files
released Sunday at the National Archives in London.

While supporting the postwar Constitution, which shifted
sovereignty from Emperor Hirohito to the people,
officials believed the United States and Prime Minister
Shigeru Yoshida had not given enough thought to how the
monarchy should function, and its role was hazy.

They felt the American authorities failed to understand
that a royal family should be treated with dignity. And
as a result, members of the royal family had been put in
some demeaning positions.

Diplomats also noted a small revival of support for the
prewar position of the monarchy -- when it was decreed
that the emperor was all powerful and descended from
gods -- and wanted Japan to maintain a constitutional

In a dispatch to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden in June
1954, Henry Brain, a minister at the British Embassy in
Tokyo, also said that the monarchy lacked funds, making
it harder for members of the Japanese royal family to
carry out their roles properly.

He recommended there should be a formal channel of
communication between politicians and the emperor, along
the lines of the British system, so that the monarch was
kept abreast of current affairs.

Tsunami : A major reconstruction plan needed for South Asia

If a tsunami were to strike Northern Europe, killing
more than 100,000 people from Ireland to Sweden, does
anybody think it would take President Bush 72 hours to
speak up about the tragedy and call leaders of the
devastated countries?

In fairness to the vacationing president, the full
magnitude of the natural disaster in the Indian Ocean
wasn't apparent immediately after the undersea
earthquake and the ensuing tsunami struck a week ago
today. Still, there is no disputing that the first
response of the American president and government, seen
as omnipotent in much of the world, was lackadaisical
and stingy. When Bush finally spoke Wednesday, Spain's
pledge of relief funds was nearly double that of the
U.S., and even that U.S. contribution ($35 million) came
only after heavy criticism of Washington...

If conservatives in the president's own party balk at a
multibillion-dollar Marshall Plan for South Asia, Bush
shouldn't hesitate to employ his favorite marketing
ploy: Peg the effort to the war on terror by pointing
out the strategic importance of the region. Indonesia,
the most severely affected nation, also happens to be
the world's largest Muslim country, where most practice
a moderate form of the religion but the government
battles extremists...

entire editorial on :
(need to register at first)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Tsunami : Asia aid from EU coordinated by France

France was given the responsability by the European
Union "to coordinate the whole aid from Europeans" to
help the countries of Asia, announced Interior
Minister Dominique de Villepin. The Minister for Health
Philippe Douste-Blazy will go on January 2nd in the
evening to Sri Lanka "to initiate an airlift there
between the zone touched by the tsunamis and France".

France will send the helicopter carrier Jeanne d'Arc and
the frigate George Leygues to Asia on Monday to provide
medical aid to the countries hit by the tsunamis,
Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said on Sunday in
an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.

"The urgency is to avoid a health disaster," the
minister said, announcing that the two warships as well
as an Airbus 310 carrying 12 tonnes of water purifying
material and medication would be sent on Monday.

The ships would have medical teams (16 doctors on the
Jeanne d'Arc), an operating theatre and five

In the same paper, Interior Minister Dominique de
Villepin announced the setting up on Sunday of a field
hospital in Sumatra staffed by 70 paramedics, and a
mission to identify victims by specialised teams from
the police and gendarmerie in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

On European co-ordination, the minister said the French
were "the first in Colombo" and "we are the most
numerous, that is why the European Union gave us this
essential task."

"I hurt in my heart" French baker helping Tsunami victims

Far from the tsunami-ravaged beaches of southeast Asia,
a village baker in France's Champagne region is taking
action to play at least a small part in helping the

Christian Carle, 41, has since Wednesday contributed
Euro 1 (US$1.36) from the sale of every seasonal
«Galette des Rois» pastry to the Red Cross for disaster
relief, he said. After local radio and national TV
reported his campaign, Carle said he has barely slept,
and phone calls from supporters around the country
haven't stopped.

«I sold 150 galettes in a day this week, more than in an
entire month last year,» Carle said Saturday from his
bakery in the village of Germaine, population 560, east
of Paris. His is one of the many spontaneous acts of
support, small and large, from people, governments and
humanitarian agencies worldwide for the tens of
thousands of tsunami victims.

Since learning about the disaster only on Wednesday _
admittedly a late jump _ Carle said he has collected
about Euro 300 (US$408) in his campaign. «It has been
incredible. Some people have given 20, 30, or 40 euros,
and they didn't even buy a galette!» he said by phone.

Some customers traveled from 20 kilometers (12 miles)
away, he said. A trained optician, Carle said if he can
work it out, he would like to do more: like taking a
month off and contributing his skills to humanitarian
groups in the tsunami-ravaged region.

«I hurt in my heart for those 5-year-olds who lost their
parents,» the father of two said. «We can't forget these

South Asia tsunami, devastation and deadly diseases!

After the devastation wreaked by the seas, a deluge from
the skies deepened the misery for tsunami-stricken
areas, triggering flash floods in Sri Lanka that sent
evacuees fleeing and increasing the threat of deadly

Foreign military forces began one of their biggest
relief missions ever with the death toll likely to hit
150,000. A magnitude-5.9 aftershock shook Sumatra early
Sunday as the world's aid efforts shifted into high gear
in ways big and small: elephant convoys working in
Thailand, global assistance reaching US$2 billion with a
fresh pledge of US$500 million from Tokyo, and
aid-bearing American helicopters touching down in
Indonesia to the joy of tsunami survivors.

The confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunamis
that hit a week ago Sunday passed 123,000, and the
United Nations has said the estimated number was
approaching 150,000. Thailand said it expects its death
toll to reach 8,000. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
decided to visit Indonesia, the hardest hit nation,
where the official death toll stood at more than 80,000,
but officials said it could reach 100,000. Annan will
attend a conference Thursday in Jakarta on organizing

«We mourn, we cry and our hearts weep to witness
thousands of victims sprawled everywhere,» said
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, touring
the damage on Sumatra island, which bore the brunt of
both the quake and the waves. Hungry Indonesians
welcomed a dozen American Seahawk helicopters sent from
the USS Abraham Lincoln as they landed in Banda Aceh and
other parts of Sumatra island's devastated northwest
coast, bringing relief supplies including temporary
shelters. Also, a flotilla of cargo planes carrying U.S.
Marines and water purifying equipment headed to Sri

A day after U.S. President George W. Bush upped the U.S.
pledge to US$350 million, Japanese Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi announced Saturday that his country
would contribute up to US$500 million to relief efforts.
«The carnage is of a scale that defies comprehension,»
Bush said in his weekly radio address, announcing a
proclamation calling for U.S. flags to be flown at
half-staff this week in honor of the dead. Secretary of
State Colin Powell was also heading for the region.

But the dollar (euro) figures were an abstraction for
survivors whose hearts were broken once again by water.
At one refugee camp on the grounds of the airport of
Banda Aceh, hundreds of people spent a wet night
shivering under plastic sheets. Mothers nursed babies
while others tried to light a fire with damp matches.
«With no help we will die,» said Indra Syaputra. «We
came here because we heard that we could get food, but
it was nonsense. All I got was some packets of noodles.»
The rains pummeling the corpse-littered city were
creating the conditions for cholera and other waterborne
diseases to spread. Boxes of aid at Banda Aceh's airport
soaked up water, making it difficult for workers loading
cartons of water, crackers and noodles onto delivery

More amazing stories of survival emerged. The Indonesian
Red Cross in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province,
reportedly dug out a survivor from the ruins of a house
where he had been buried since the tsunami struck. The
rescuers heard Ichsan Azmil's cries for help. After he
was pulled out Friday, he asked for water and was taken
to a hospital for treatment of cuts and bruises. On
India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, a woman who
fled the killer waves gave birth Monday in the forest
that became her sanctuary. She named her son «Tsunami.»
Even art became part of the folklore of resilience.

In the historic port town of Galle, Sri Lanka, several
Buddha statues of cement and plaster were found
unscathed amid collapsed brick walls in the center of
the devastated city. To many residents, it was a divine
sign. «The people are not living according to religious
virtues,» said Sumana, a Buddhist monk in an orange robe
who sheltered himself from the sun under a black
umbrella. In eastern Sri Lanka, flash floods forced the
evacuation of about 2,000 people already displaced by a
tsunami that killed nearly 29,000 people on the tropical

Several roads leading to Ampara _ one of the hardest hit
towns _ were flooded, preventing relief trucks from
arriving, said Neville Wijesinghe, a senior police
officer. Bureaucratic delays, fuel shortages, impassable
roads and long distances also blocked supplies. In
addition to the deaths, 5 million people were homeless.
The hunt for loved ones dragged on with tens of
thousands still missing. Among the missing were some
3,500 Swedes and 1,000 Germans, and hundreds of others
from Scandinavia, Italy and Belgium. Aftershocks rattled
the region, sending panicked Sumatrans into the streets.

Geologists said a 6.5 quake rattled Sumatra at around
lunchtime Saturday, centered 250 kilometers (155 miles)
southwest of Banda Aceh. Smaller quakes hit West Java
and southern Sumatra earlier. There were not reports of
casualties from those tremors or the latest one early
Sunday, which was centered north of Sumatra.
Seismologists said strong tremors of up to magnitude 6.1
also struck the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where the
exact number of tsunami casualties was not known but
feared to be in the thousands. Hunger and disease were
the biggest threats in the archipelago, which the Indian
government has largely been keeping off-limits to
foreign aid agencies. «There is starvation. People
haven't had food or water for at least five days.

There are carcasses. There will be an epidemic,» said
Andaman's member of Parliament, Manoranjan Bhakta.
Island officials say at least 3,754 people were missing
amid crumbled homes, downed trees and mounds of dead
animals. V.V. Bhat, chief secretary of the islands, said
the missing could not be presumed dead because they
could have survived in coconut groves that dot the
islands. In the Thai resort of Phuket, five elephants,
normally used to haul logs in forests, were being sent
to pull heavy debris in areas that are too hilly or
muddy for vehicles. Thailand's official death count was
4,812, with over half of them foreigners. Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra has warned the figure is likely to
reach 8,000. Many people have blamed the high number of
casualties on bureaucratic bungling and poor
communication systems. Thaksin said the government will
investigate why tsunami warnings largely failed to reach
officials and tourist resorts.

Western health officials headed to devastated areas
across Sri Lanka after officials warned about possible
disease outbreaks among the 1 million people seeking
shelter in camps. «Our biggest battle and fear now is to
prevent an epidemic from breaking out,» said Health
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. «Clean water and
sanitation is our main concern.»