Sunday, 04 Dec, 2022

International

Japan honours Shinzo Abe with controversial state funeral

International Desk  | banglanews24.com
Update: 2022-09-27 11:53:34
Japan honours Shinzo Abe with controversial state funeral [Photo Collected]

Japan is bidding farewell to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed on the campaign trail in July, with a rare state funeral that has deeply split the nation.

Some 4,000 mourners — including United States Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — are attending Tuesday’s ceremony for Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

The event began at 2pm local time (05:00 GMT) with Japan’s Self Defense Forces firing 19 shots in honour of the influential politician as his wife, Akie Abe, carried his ashes into Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan hall.

At a nearby park, thousands of Japanese people have been gathering since the morning to offer floral tributes to Abe.

But the state funeral, which is costing taxpayers some $11.5m, as well as revelations about ties between Abe, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the South Korean Unification Church, has prompted a huge public outcry in Japan.

Critics consider the religious group a “predatory cult” responsible for forcibly extracting exorbitant donations from its followers in Japan.

The relatives of Abe’s assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, say the 41-year-old’s mother donated some 100 million yen ($692,000) to the group, bankrupting his family. Yamagami has told investigators that he shot Abe on July 8 because of the prime minister’s support for the church. An internal LDP survey has since found that nearly half the governing party’s 379 national legislators also have ties with the church and affiliated groups. These range from attending the church’s events to receiving donations and accepting volunteers for election support.

The revelations have caused Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s approval ratings to plunge below 30 percent.

But Kishida has defended the state funeral as necessary, citing Abe’s “achievements” and the receipt of some 1,700 messages of condolences from more than 260 countries and regions. Some 700 foreign dignitaries, including Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese, are attending Tuesday’s event.

Kishida, the heads of Japan’s lower and upper houses of parliament, and the country’s chief justice will speak at the funeral.

Security has been tightened in Tokyo, with schools in the vicinity of the funeral venue closed and some 20,000 police officers mobilised to ensure security for the event. Protests against the funeral are also taking place in Tokyo, with some 62 percent of respondents surveyed by the Mainichi newspaper saying they do not approve of holding such an event.

Critics say Abe is also not deserving of the honour because of his legacy of divisive policies.

These include Abe’s push to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, and nationalistic rhetoric that soured relations with neighbouring countries, including South Korea.

The former leader, at the time of his resignation for health reasons in 2020, had also become mired in scandals in which he was alleged to have misused political funds and engaged in cronyism. He was also facing criticism at the time for his poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his determination to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics despite the outbreak of the disease.

“Kishida’s decision to honour Abe with a state funeral without consulting the Diet or judiciary smacks of exactly the arrogance of power that the public associates with Abe. By a 2-1 margin the public opposes the state funeral and much of this opposition can be attributed to Abe’s toxic legacies and limited achievements,” said Jeffrey Kingston, professor of history and Asian studies at Temple University in Japan.

“Polls suggest few believe Kishida has handled the Church issue competently and this is part of the reason he has plunged in the polls. Supporters hope it will all blow over but the media spotlight may sustain the anger and now there are the Olympic bribery scandals that provide further reminders about the sleazy ways and means of the Abe government.”

Source: Al Jazeera 

BDST: 1153 HRS, SEP 27, 2022
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