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2011年4月13日 (水)

政治の1カ月 責任感がなお乏しい

(Mainichi Japan) April 12, 2011
Politicians must put aside differences, join hands to overcome disaster
社説:政治の1カ月 責任感がなお乏しい

April 11 marked one month since a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, claiming thousands of lives. The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan remains in a difficult position, burdened with the tasks of supporting and restoring disaster-hit areas, while trying to overcome the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

At the same time, the presence of the Diet in the crisis has been weak. Now is the time for the ruling and opposition parties to jointly exercise their wisdom and utilize the power of politics.

Looking back on the month since the earthquake and tsunami, it is lamentable that the initial response to the crisis at the nuclear power plant was so slow.

Why, for example, didn't officials quickly open vents to release pressure in the nuclear reactor containment vessels?

The Mainichi and other media outlets have been probing the handling of the crisis, and it seems that there was a lack of mutual understanding between the government and TEPCO. In fact there was even a degree of mistrust -- a factor that no doubt hampered the response to the disaster.

Naturally, top priority must now be given to bringing the crisis under control as soon as possible. People in Japan and across the world are closely watching the handling of the crisis, and the government must conduct its own investigation to flush out any problems.

Still, government bureaucrats have been complaining that information isn't being shared and that it is unclear where reports should be filed. These issues remain a point of concern.

Since the March 11 earthquake, more than 20 headquarters, councils and affiliated teams have been set up to boost the response by the Prime Minister's Office to the disaster.

Administrative vice ministers from all government ministries have also joined a liaison council helping government agencies communicate on support measures for people affected by the disaster.

But the chain of command remains unclear -- an issue that is said to have caused confusion.

The prime minister apparently harbors his own sense of distrust toward bureaucrats, but leadership involves putting administrative organizations to use.

What Kan needs to do now is clearly state: "I'll leave you to do the things that you can do, but I'll take the final responsibility."

Without such a stance he will not be able to win the public's trust.

Opposition parties also have a big role to play.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has hinted it will not form a grand coalition government with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Instead, the party says, it will aim to become a "responsible opposition party," cooperating on issues that it should combine forces on. However, this has probably left many people with the impression that the LDP is only backing away from the front lines.

The Mainichi has called for the formation of a "recovery Cabinet" with the ruling and opposition parties working in unison to help Japan recover from the disaster. The reason for this is that we believe now is not the time for parties to spend all their efforts engaged in their longstanding political bickering.

One comment that recently emerged from political circles was that Kan should have been more humble in soliciting LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki's cooperation when he asked Tanigaki to join the Cabinet, as this would have altered the situation.

To look at this another way, we would like to think that there is still room for the DPJ and the LDP to come together.

At the same time, the DPJ and the LDP are not the only two players.

We also want the other opposition parties to serious think about how they can create an "All-Japan" disaster response team.

Now is the time for Diet members to transform their mindsets.

毎日新聞 2011年4月11日 4時00分


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