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Sharing Japanese experience

Sharing Japanese experience

The Star Malaysia, Malaysia 25 May 2018

I AM a Japanese novelist who has published more than 50 books in various countries. I have lived in Malaysia for three and a half years and I am so impressed with the outcome of the 14th General Election and what Malaysians have achieved.

The coalition ruled the country for decades. No one expected it to be defeated. When people first saw the stunning result, almost everyone was at a loss for a while. Then they realised it was the beginning of a new era. I am not writing about Malaysia. I am writing about my own country.

Congratulations, Malaysians! You have finally decided to change your government. You have shown your ability as a mature democratic nation by making this decision.

When I saw Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declare Pakatan Harapan’s victory on TV at midnight, I was deeply touched. To be honest, I had a little pain in my heart. At that movement, I thought about my country. As a person who has experienced a similar situation, I would like to share what I saw and felt back then even though it is somewhat bitter for me.

In 2009, I was excited as the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defeated the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a general election. The LDP and its allies had governed Japan since 1955 except for a very short period in the 1990s.

When I was young, it seemed the LDP would reign forever but then DPJ won the election with a super majority. I believed my country had finally got a two-party system and that DPJ would introduce some measures which LDP had ignored for a long time, such as an effective child allowance system and open immigration policy. Not only I but also all the people hoped that those measures would spur Japan’s sluggish economy.

Sadly speaking, this was a delusion. What we saw after the election were endless internal fights within DPJ. Our elected representatives immediately engaged in internal fights again and again.

The first prime minister from DPJ resigned a year after his inauguration. The second prime minister also left his office a year after his appointment. The third lasted only for a year. We had three prime ministers in three years!

What was worse was that DPJ decided to increase the consumption tax rate from 5% to 10% even though retaining the current rate was one of the most important promises they made in the campaign.

Many Japanese people felt betrayed and as a result, DPJ lost terribly in the next general election. DPJ doesn’t even exist now. The party dissolved like sugar in water, and so did our hope for a brighter future, the two-party system and a more democratic policy process. Policies that once shone brightly were miserably dumped and drenched in muddy water and the Japanese people lost interest in politics.

LDP is back on the stage now and it looks set to reign forever again. I feel like my country would never change the government even if the ruling coalition is extremely corrupt. So, I am jealous of you, Malaysians. You have got a right to build a modern democratic nation.

Be patient, Malaysians. Don’t make the mistakes my country did. It will take a while to see your government work well as you are now in uncharted waters. I hope your politicians will maintain order and cohesion and help each other to serve the rakyat. If they start internal fights due to selfishness like the politicians in my country did, you should stand up and tell them that unity is crucial to building a better future.

Freedom, democracy and transparency are not given naturally, these are cultivated by all the rakyat. Your beautiful country taught me about the importance of unity when I first came here.

TSUMUGU HASHIMOTO – Kuala Lumpur

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