SA slams Ja­pan col­umn prais­ing apartheid

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

TOKYO — South Africa has protested af­ter a prom­i­nent colum­nist in a lead­ing rightwing news­pa­per in Ja­pan praised racial seg­re­ga­tion un­der apartheid as a model for Ja­panese im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, the paper said Sun­day.

Mohau Pheko, South Africa’s am­bas­sador to Ja­pan, ac­cused nov­el­ist Ayako Sono of glo­ri­fy­ing the sys­tem of apartheid in the col­umn pub­lished on Wed­nes­day in the Sankei Shim­bun.

Ms Sono, who was pre­vi­ously an ad­viser to the govern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe on ed­u­ca­tion re­form, wrote that Ja­pan needs im­mi­grant work­ers to help care for its rapidly age­ing pop­u­la­tion — but that those work­ers should “live apart”, as they did in South Africa un­der apartheid.

Mr Pheko’s let­ter of protest, ac­cord­ing to a story pub­lished in the Sankei on Sun­day, branded apartheid “a crime against hu­man­ity” and said it “must not be jus­ti­fied in the 21st cen­tury”.

All coun­tries, the Sankei quoted her as say­ing, must fight dis­crim­i­na­tion “against oth­ers based on skin colour or other stan­dards”.

Ms Sono’s col­umn had sparked a back­lash on so­cial me­dia, with com­men­ta­tors on Twit­ter brand­ing it “mad­ness” while oth­ers said it was “shock­ing” that the Sankei had pub­lished it.

When asked about the col­umn on Fri­day, Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga told re­porters the govern­ment would “re­frain from com­ment­ing on the per­sonal views of a pri­vate in­di­vid­ual”, adding that while Ms Sono had been a mem­ber of a govern­ment panel she had left it two years pre­vi­ously.

“As for Ja­pan’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, equal­ity for all un­der the law is guar­an­teed,” he said.

“We will take ap­pro­pri­ate steps un­der that pol­icy.”

Ms Sono de­fended her­self in fresh com­ments pub­lished along­side ex­cerpts from the am­bas­sador’s let­ter in the Sankei on Sun­day.

She said she was not propos­ing Ja­pan im­ple­ment apartheid poli­cies, and that she “was only writ­ing from my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that it is dif­fi­cult for peo­ple with dif­fer­ent life­styles to live to­gether”.

The Sankei’s se­nior ed­i­tor said that the news­pa­per does not tol­er­ate dis­crim­i­na­tion, and the col­umn re­flects only the au­thor’s opin­ion.

Ja­pan’s rapidly age­ing pop­u­la­tion and shrink­ing work­force has prompted econ­o­mists both in and out­side the coun­try to call for pro­grammes invit­ing young for­eign work­ers to help sup­port the world’s third largest econ­omy.

How­ever the coun­try re­mains al­most con­sti­tu­tion­ally al­ler­gic to im­mi­gra­tion.

Ja­pan al­lows only a small num­ber of un­skilled work­ers in amid fears they would threaten the cul­ture of con­sen­sus, and the govern­ment has said that less than two per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is classed as “non-ja­panese”.

The re­sult for Ja­pan, crit­ics have told AFP pre­vi­ously, is ranks of poorly-pro­tected em­ploy­ees brought in through the na­tional back door, ripe for abuse and ex­ploita­tion.

Abe has pre­vi­ously said he will ex­pand an in­tern­ship scheme im­ple­mented in the 1990s bring­ing tens of thou­sands of for­eign work­ers into the coun­try.

The prime min­is­ter has said for­eign labour will in­creas­ingly be needed, par­tic­u­larly in the boom­ing con­struc­tion in­dus­try ahead of the Tokyo Olympics 2020, and in health­care.

Around a quar­ter of Ja­pan’s 127-mil­lion pop­u­la­tion is aged 65 or over, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment fig­ures. This pro­por­tion is ex­pected to rise to 40 per­cent over the com­ing decades.

In South Africa, race re­mains a di­vid­ing fac­tor de­spite two decades of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts fol­low­ing the dis­man­tling of apartheid. — AFP

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