Friday, January 29, 2010

Japan interpretation on the art of kickbacks

Kickbacks usually refers to political corruption...

A bullet arrived in the mail Thursday at Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's office in Tokyo's Nagata-cho district, and another one was sent to Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa's office in the Diet building along with a threatening letter. Hatoyama, Thursday evening : "I truly hope this kind of despicable act is stopped", who added that "people should confront politicians with words if they have complaints." Awful situation with DPJ leader Ozawa Ichiro, the DPJ "Shadow Shogun" and his troubles with Tokyo Prosecutor Office for alleged kickbacks.

VDO: The DPJ ruling party is ashamed with the financial scandal, Japanese commercial TV

Since last month, envelopes containing bullets and letters criticizing Ozawa have been sent to his office and home, at the headquarters of the ruling DPJ, and to the TV Asahi.

After these tricky facts, I read this information published in a forum on Japanese politic and social affairs: "The 2001 Mediation for Profit Prohibition Law (Assen Ritoku Kinshiho) makes it a criminal offense for politicians (and their state-funded secretaries) to profit by receiving money or goods (i.e. kickbacks) in return for exerting influence on government employees in areas such as public works contracts." in SSJ-FORUM Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo

Of course it is right. Now my understanding is that the Ozawa-san's case is not that easy to directly invoke the mentioned law since the influence he has exerted is not to profit the main contractors of the public enterprise but to the sub or under-sub contractors. Of course this has to be double checked. Also we can not say that it is absolutely illegal in Japan to exert influence on private companies, especially if it is a private contract.

In other words, I guess Ozawa Ichiro is a kind of a boss of bid rigging, which is well known as Dango in Japanese. The problem is that Ozawa's activies appear as totally unclear and should be opened to public knowledge.

As one of my sources told me I do not wonder wether this Ozawa case is "to lead to the decline in support for all the politics". I'd rather say, can Japan (and elsewhere) implement new rules and have them respected in this field of political bribery? Well... hum... no, no. "First of all these are not kickbacks, these are just "technical violation" of the rules on political contribution!"

I see...

(sources: ann, wire services, reporter's notes)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burma deconstructed! Opium and repression

Demonstrations 2007 against the Burmese junta

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader,
will be released from house arrest in November, a
government minister has told a gathering of local
officials, according to two people who attended the
meeting. The information could not be verified
independently but three people who attended the meeting
said the comment was made to an audience of several
hundred people in Kyaukpadaung, a town about 565 km
(350 miles) north of the former capital, Yangon. The
three witnesses requested anonymity.

Suu Kyi, detained for 14 of the past 20 years, was
sentenced to a further 18 months of detention last
August for harboring an American who swam uninvited to
her lakeside home. That incident took place in
May 2009, just before an earlier period of house arrest
was due to end. Taking into account the three months
she spent in a prison guesthouse after the incident,
her 18-month sentence would end in November.

Planned election would be the first since 1990, when
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party
scored a landslide victory that the country's junta
refused to recognize.

Jailed opponents

Maung Oo also said detained NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo
would be released on February 13, and that the
government would pursue an international-style market
economy after holding "free and fair" elections,
including loosening restrictions on car imports. Tin
Oo, 82, a former defense minister and retired general,
has been in prison or under house arrest for more than
a decade.

A nightmare for Burmese monks and population, Asian
Gazette already reported about the situation of Burmese
refugees who escaped from Burma after demonstrations
mid- 2007 to neighboring countries.

Here is a report about the opium traffic from the
Irrawaddy newspaper

"Opium Addiction 'Poisoning' Palaung, Says Report"

Increased opium cultivation in ethnic Palaung areas of
northern Shan State is creating widespread addiction
and poisoning Palaung youths, according to a new report
by the Palaung Women's Organization (PWO). The report
titled “Poisoned Hills,” which was released on Tuesday,
said that opium fields are flourishing not only in
“insurgent and cease-fire areas,” as claimed by the UN,
but also in Burmese government-controlled areas.

The Palaung researchers said they conducted field
surveys in Namkham and Mantong townships in the Palaung
region between 2007 and 2009, and found that the total
area of cultivated opium had increased up to fivefold
over three years—from 963 hectares in 2006-07 to 4,545
hectares in 2008-09. Lway Nway Hnoung, one of the
researchers on the report, said she collected
information by conducting interviews with local
villagers, village heads, drug addicts and relatives of
drug addicts from about 100 villages in the region.
Several housewives said that drug addiction often led
to stealing and domestic violence within families and
that the youths in the region often lost interest in
studying, she said.

According to local villagers who were interviewed, the
widespread availability of the drug was responsible for
more and more men and boys becoming addicts. “The only
men who aren't using drugs are the monks who stay in
the monasteries,” one Palaung woman reportedly said.
In a village surveyed in Mantong, it was found that
that the percentage of men aged 15 and older who were
addicted to opium had increased from 57 percent in 2007
to 85 percent in 2009, according to the report.

The PWO report said that drug addicts “flock openly to
drug camps” in Namkham where dealers sell heroin and
amphetamines from their houses. Namkham and Mantong
are under the control of the Burmese government forces,
although they were previously administered by the
Palaung State Liberation Army until it surrendered to
the Burmese armed forces in 2005. The report said that
local Burmese authorities—the army, police and
pro-junta militia—were involved in the drug trade.
Police have reportedly formed "anti-drug teams" in the
regions. However, instead of eradicating poppy fields,
they are extorting large sums from local farmers and
then letting them grow the crop, the report said,
adding that during 2007 and 2008, in Mantong, at least
37 million kyat (US $37,000) in bribes was collected
from 28 villages. The report emphasized that “a
negotiated resolution to the political issues at the
root of Burma’s civil war and political reform are
needed to address the drug issue” which is impacting
the region.

“As long as this regime remains in power, drugs will
continue to poison people in Burma and the region,”
said Lway Nway Hnoung. According to the 2009 annual
survey of poppy cultivation in Southeast Asia by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the
total area under opium poppy cultivation in Burma in
2008 was estimated at 28,500 hectares, representing an
increase of 3 percent from the 27,700 hectares under
cultivation in 2007. The largest region for opium
cultivation was Shan State, the UNODC survey said,
where 89 percent of the total opium poppy in Burma was
grown. Southern and eastern Shan states accounted for
53.7 percent and 33 percent respectively. Northern
Shan State remained low with a cultivation area
representing only 3 percent of national cultivation,
even though it had increased by 105 percent from 2007
and by 233 percent from 2006. Neighboring Kachin and
Karenni states remained with low levels of
cultivation—5 percent and 6 percent respectively in
2008, according to the UNODC.
Newspaper sources

UNODC Report on narcotics in Burma:

Opium cultivation in South East-Asia remains relatively
limited. Just under 34,000 hectares of opium was grown
in the region in 2009, a quarter of the amount grown in
Afghanistan. Worrisome is the situation in Myanmar
where cultivation is up for the third year in a row –
an 11% increase from 28,500 ha in 2008 to 31,700 ha in
2009. Most of this increase came in the Shan State
where 95% of Myanmar’s poppy is grown. More than a
million people (most of them in the Shan state) are now
involved in opium cultivation in Myanmar, an increase
of more than a quarter over 2008.

However, the overall value of the crop is falling since
yields were down 28% to 10.4 kg per hectare, production
fell 20% (to 330 metric tons), and prices are more or
less stable (at just over US$ 300/kg). In total, the
potential value of opium production in Myanmar fell by
15% from US$ 123 million in 2008 to US$ 104 million in
2009. Increased instability in north-eastern Myanmar
(where most of the opium is grown) seems to be
affecting the opium market. There are indications that
ceasefire groups – autonomous ethnic militias like the
Wa and Kachin – are selling drugs to buy weapons, and
moving stocks to avoid detection.

While South-East Asia’s once notorious opium problem
has been contained, there are worrying signs that the
situation in Myanmar is starting to unravel.
Governments and donors need to stay the course and
ensure sufficient duration of commitment and funding
for all aspects of the drug issue : security,
development, and health. In Lao PDR, cultivation was
up 19%, although the overall total is low at 1,900 ha,
as is the yield at 6 kg/ha. Nevertheless, with a kilo
of opium fetching US$ 1,327 per kilogram (due to stable
demand and scarce supply), this illicit crop remains
attractive to farmers, especially as the prices of
other locally produced commodities are falling. This
Report features a chapter on what is being done to
promote development in the remote northern province of
Phongsali, Lao PDR.

In order to consolidate recent gains, the country in
general needs more development assistance particularly
for remote communities, and greater access to drug
treatment. It also deserves support for the
implementation of its National Drug Control Master Plan
(2009-2013). While focusing on the opium problem
(mostly in rural communities), we should not lose sight
of rapidly increasing production and use of synthetic
drugs (mostly in cities) in the Greater Mekong region.
It would be a Pyrrhic victory for drug control if
South-East Asia’s appetite for opium was simply
replaced by a new craving for ampethamine-type

Opium Poppy Cultivation in South-East Asia
Source : United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control. Lao National
Commission for Drug Control and Supervision
Date : 14-Dec-2009

Monday, January 25, 2010

Okinawa Nago city electors: "No to a Marine Corps relocation base!"

Susumu Inamine, the new Nago mayor

Ending the long-standing dispute which has long divided the city, Susumu Inamine rallied the majority in Sunday's mayoral race in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄).

He pledged his campaign on the refusal for his city to welcome a supplementary U.S. Marine Corps base that Japan and the United States formally agreed to relocate in 2006, agreement that was reviewed by the new Hatoyama administration in September 2009, dividing Japan and American governments.

VDO describing how private Japanese television introduced the debate on voting day

''I was campaigning in the election with a pledge not to have a new base built in Henoko waters and will hold on to the pledge with conviction,'' Inamine told his supporters who gathered in front of his office after securing victory. He said the city has long failed to demonstrate one unified local mandate, citing that a majority of residents voted against the relocation plan in the 1997 local referendum, while candidates who were willing to accept the plan had won the past three mayoral polls. ''It (my victory as the anti-U.S. base candidate) shows this is one single will of local people,'' Inamine started his mandate with a roar of applause from his campaign supporters. The vote turnout was big, 76.96 percent, up 1.98 percentage points from the previous election, quoting the city's election board.

His rival, the incumbent Nago Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, 63, expressed willingness to accept the existing plan if the government led by Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan decides to follow the bilateral accord. Inamine was running as an independent but had support from the DPJ and its coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party, and the Japanese Communist Party. Inamine also drew support from civic groups opposed to the construction of a new U.S. base, while his opponent, ex Mayor Shimabukuro, was largely backed by construction firms that have benefited from and expect to continue benefiting from state subsidies and related public works projects.

Under the 2006 deal reached with Japan's previous government, which was led by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, Nago, which has a population of about 60,000, would build a new heliport base along the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Schwab located near the splendid Henoko bay.

"Hatoyama reiterated last week that his government would conclude negotiations with the United States by the end of May on where to relocate the Futemma facility. Since taking office last September, the 62-year-old Japanese leader has been evasive on the issue and that has been widely seen as straining Japan-U.S. relations."

What will happen to Futenma relocation? This is now up to Tokyo government to decide, and the calendar is rather ironical as the US Japan security alliance turned fifty last week!

(sources: Japanese dailies, Mainichi, Nikkei, Asahi, Yomiuri, wire services, Ann, Nnn, reporter's notes)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ozawa: "Home from the Hill"

The Ozawa's Nagatacho world of ideals, media trials, sulfurous news leaked out, and politic tricks.

A world built between fiction and reality because here too politics kill personal beliefs, ideals and desires confronted with the reality of the world. As in a remake of "Home from the Hill", political this one, the dreams and tremendous ambitions of this formidable Japanese politician are found parasitized by the ideals of the surrounding world. Now these dreams become justice matters, from which he cannot escape.

The Hatoyama government political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa just re-denied to the Prosecutor the allegations that he received an illegal donation. A scandal that has rocked the Hatoyama centre-left government and the party he co-leads, the DPJ. A scandal whose sources and treacheries are everywhere the cameras want them to be.

Again Ozawa refuses to step down. Facing the press in a hotel in Tokyo last night, same hotel where the hearing were organized, here is what Ichiro Ozawa has to say:


"I want to fulfill my given duties, I have nothing to hide, so I told all the facts that I remember." He added that his former and present secretaries have not received any illicit money from Mizutani Construction Co. or from any other firms. Ozawa lashed out at media critics and reports of illegal donations branding those as "groundless."

My sources in Tokyo say that "the battle between the Public Prosecutors Office and the Shadow Shogun could continue until summer as the Office is loaded with lots of information and they could extend Ozawa's questioning for weeks." The re-assignment of the prosecutor would take until spring and the de facto new office would happen in summer current administrative re assignment for thousands of personnel. The Public Prosecutors Office had long been controlled by the LDP, now in the opposition.

Items watched by the Prosecutor office

Ozawa, the ruling DPJ’s secretary-general, faces allegations on how he obtained 400 million yen used to buy real estate and whether he was aware his campaign finance organization failed to report the transaction, according to the Yomiuri newspaper. Ozawa has repeatedly denied doing anything wrong, saying yesterday the funds were his own, and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has backed him up.

Ozawa also denied accepting compensation in cash for awarding a dam contract to Mizutani Construction Co. “I have not received any such improper payments from Mizutani Construction or any other company,” Ozawa said. “My former aides never accepted any improper payments either.” Former executives of Mizutani told prosecutors the firm gave 50 million yen ($550,000) in October 2004 to Tomohiro Ishikawa, when he was one of Ozawa’s private assistants, after winning a dam construction contract, the Yomiuri newspaper reported Jan. 15.

Scandal chronology as set by today's JT

January 1995 — Group called Rikuzankai becomes Ozawa's political fund management organization.

Oct. 29, 2004 — Rikuzankai buys land in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward.

Jan. 7, 2005 — Rikuzankai registers ownership of the land.

April 7, 2006 — Ozawa assumes DPJ presidency.

March 3, 2009 — Takanori Okubo, an incumbent state-paid secretary for Ozawa, is arrested on suspicion of falsely reporting illegal donations received by Rikuzankai from Nishimatsu Construction Co. Prosecutors raid Rikuzankai's office.

March 24 — Okubo is indicted over the case.

May 11 — Ozawa announces his resignation as DPJ leader.

Sept. 15 — Ozawa becomes DPJ secretary general under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Dec. 18 — Okubo pleads not guilty at the Tokyo District Court.

Dec. 27 — Tokyo prosecutors question Tomohiro Ishikawa, a DPJ lawmaker who was formerly Ozawa's privately hired secretary, on a voluntary basis.

Jan. 5, 2010 — Prosecutors question Okubo on a voluntary basis.

Jan. 12 — Ozawa denies any deliberate wrongdoing at a news conference.

Jan. 13 — Prosecutors question Ishikawa again, search Rikuzankai's office, Ishikawa's office inside a Diet facility and offices of major builder Kajima Corp.

Jan. 15 — Ishikawa and Mitsutomo Ikeda, who succeeded Ishikawa as secretary to Ozawa, are arrested on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

Jan. 16 — Okubo is arrested on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law. Ozawa says during a DPJ convention that he will fight prosecutors.

Jan. 19 — Prosecutors search offices of several midsize construction firms.

Jan. 23 — Prosecutors question Ozawa on a voluntary basis.

The comments LDP SPJ

"The long process of unraveling (the scandal) has begun," said Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, the largest opposition force. "This is an issue of trust between the people and politics," he said at a party meeting, reiterating calls for Ozawa to be summoned to a Diet meeting as a witness.

Consumer affairs minister Mizuho Fukushima, who heads the Social Democratic Party, a minor coalition partner of the DPJ, said the developments were "extremely regrettable" and called on Ozawa to explain the matter fully to the public. (with quotes by wire services, JT, reporter's notes)

And... the Okinawa political dilemma

All of this happening just before an important election in Okinawa on Sunday to pick the leader of the city of Nago. Election which may determine PM Yukio Hatoyama's decision on the future of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in Ginowan, another city in the southernmost Japanese prefecture. The mayor election is being closely watched as Hatoyama said that he wants to see the result before deciding whether to relocate the Futemma facility, which currently sits in a residential area in Ginowan, to Nago, in line with a 2006 Japan-U.S. deal; or to transfer it outside the prefecture as he has advocated.

This is being a major cause of concerns between US Forces, the White House and the new Hatoyama administration and his party, the DPJ, co-led by influential Shadow Shogun Ichiro Ozawa, "Celui par qui le scandale arrive." **

** Translation into French from the American movie "Home from the Hill", the first novel by William Humphrey, published in 1958. It was made into a film in 1960 directed by Vincente Minnelli with Burt Lancaster as main actor.