Manila Bulletin

Ja­pan law­mak­ers scuf­fle over con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity bill

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TOKYO (AFP) – Ja­panese law­mak­ers scuf­fled on Thurs­day dur­ing a heated de­bate over a se­cu­rity bill that could see the mil­i­tary fight abroad for the first time in decades, after thou­sands ral­lied to voice their anger.

In scenes un­com­mon for Ja­pan’s nor­mally se­date par­lia­ment, mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion and the rul­ing coali­tion pushed and shoved each other as a com­mit­tee chair­man was sur­rounded.

Op­po­si­tion law­maker Tet­suro Fukuyama later made an emo­tional speech out­lin­ing why his party had sub­mit­ted a mo­tion to de­lay the bills, which could see Ja­panese troops fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

“Is the rul­ing party lis­ten­ing to the voices of the pub­lic? You can do what­ever you want to do be­cause you have a ma­jor­ity – is that what you think?’’ he said, on the verge of tears.

Ten­sions were run­ning high after the com­mit­tee vote was re­peat­edly de­layed through Wed­nes­day night, as op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers blocked door­ways and packed the cor­ri­dors of par­lia­ment in protest.

A to­tal of 13 peo­ple were also re­port­edly ar­rested dur­ing the evening for “in­ter­fer­ing with of­fi­cers’’ dur­ing a rally that saw an es­ti­mated 13,000 peo­ple gather out­side par­lia­ment in Tokyo.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have taken to the streets to vent their anger dur­ing al­most daily ral­lies over the past weeks, a show of pub­lic feel­ing on a scale rarely seen in Ja­pan.

Un­der the planned changes, the mil­i­tary – known as the SelfDe­fense Forces – would have the op­tion of go­ing into bat­tle to pro­tect al­lies such as the United States (US) even if there was no di­rect threat to Ja­pan it­self or its peo­ple.

Although the con­sti­tu­tion, which bars troops from tak­ing part in com­bat ex­cept in pure selfde­fense, was im­posed by US oc­cu­piers, many Ja­panese feel strongly any change in the law would al­ter the coun­try’s paci­fist char­ac­ter.

More pro­test­ers braved wet weather on Thurs­day, gath­er­ing out­side par­lia­ment in plas­tic rain­coats wav­ing their um­brel­las and shout­ing “stop the bills’’ as the com­mit­tee de­bate rum­bled on in­side.

Some held up pic­tures of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe with a Hitler hair­cut and mous­tache.

The bills are sched­uled to be sent to a ple­nary ses­sion of the up­per house after be­ing voted on by the com­mit­tee, po­ten­tially see­ing them be­come law this week.

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