Japan lawmakers scuffle over controversial security bill
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.