Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Japanese Governmental Ainu Policy Promotion Panel to include 5 Ainu members

The Hatoyama administration announced on December 25th that it will create an "Ainu Policy Promotion Panel" that will carry on the work of the "'Expert' meeting panel on Ainu policy" that was abolished by the same administration this November 2009. The panel met from June 2008-June 2009 and released its final report in July 2009. The report has been greatly criticized by the Ainu community for a variety of reasons. The Asahikawa Ainu Association and the Ramat Ainu Organization note in their petition (available for signing until January 31st 2010) calling for the restoration of Ainu indigenous rights in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
This internal colonization of Ainu Mosir within Japanese borders and subsequent imperial assimilation policy set the precedent for the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands, the colonization of Taiwan and Korea as well as the invasion of China and other parts of Asia. Nevertheless, the Expert Panel on Ainu Policy's final report does not utter a word about the suffering and sacrifice of the Ainu people due to the governmental policy to annihilate and assimilate them into Japanese people. The report also neglects to discuss the responsibility of the emperor and Japanese government as perpetrators in usurping Ainu independence and dismantling their entire social, economic and political system. Moreover, there is no mention of the indignities that the Ainu suffered such as being coerced into using Japanese, and being forced to change their names and receive imperial assimilatory education, as well as having their traditional lifestyle and indigenous customs and practices prohibited. Furthermore, the report implies that the Ainu people are responsible for being robbed of their land, language and culture while also illegitimately insinuating that the lack of the concept of land-ownership or a written language made them ill-fit for modernization.
The "Expert" Meeting was far from an expert meeting, with only one Ainu person included out twelve members, some of whom knew very little about the Ainu people or the issues they face. The Ainu member was the president of the Hokkaidō Ainu Association, Katō Tadashi. However, considering that the Hokkaidō Ainu Association membership is only 14.4% of the known Ainu population (many Ainu people do not declare their ethnic background on government censuses), at have registered themselves as being Ainu), it is a stretch to believe that Mr. Katō could have represented the varied interests and aspirations of all Ainu people. See Mark Winchester's article at the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus for further critical analysis of the 'Expert' Meeting.

In response to the dismay with the panel and its report, the Hatoyama government abolished it along with other policy panels from the previous Aso administration. The new Ainu Policy Promotion Panel is to include five Ainu members. It is still unknown who the five members will be, but this is a step in the right direction. See Jiji news for information in Japanese. (This article is no longer available at this link. The original article has been copied onto this link at Liralen42)

-Jennifer Teeter

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