Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday's Column (March 20, 2011)

Japan will rise again

IN an emotionally-charged press conference earlier this week, Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Masahiko Horie almost burst into tears as he talked about the devastation that has been visited upon parts of his country.

If newspaper reports are to be believed -- and there's no reason not to -- the affable diplomat struggled to keep his emotions in check as he spoke about how Japan was not ready to accept volunteers.

No, it was not because Japan was too proud. It was because things were still uncertain on the ground.

Horie also thanked Malaysians for the outpouring of concern and the many messages of condolences and sympathy for the disaster which swept certain parts of Japan when a "great" earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale hit 150km off the coast, resulting in a tsunami that caused even worse chaos and destruction. As if that wasn't enough, the country is also facing a nuclear crisis.

Malaysia, in fact, has been very supportive of the Japanese people and government in their time of need. We have offered assistance in the form of emergency and medical personnel -- the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) and Malaysian Red Crescent Society. Mercy Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation, has already sent people to Japan.

It is only right. These are, after all, people like us. What does it matter that they live in another country?

Even more so that it is the Japanese. Japan and its people have always been one of the first, to send help whenever anyone faces such calamities. The recent floods our country experienced is a good example.

Long before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad instituted the Look East policy, Japan and Malaysia have been good friends.

Japan has played big brother to us more times than we can imagine. It has helped train our men and women in guarding one of the world's most important waterways -- the Straits of Malacca.

In fact, on Thursday, Horie took time off from what must be a very busy schedule to donate RM10 million worth of equipment to the police Marine Operation Force. Sure, it was a date which would have been planned quite some time ago. But would anybody, the Malaysian police included, fault him if he had decided to ask for a postponement of the event?

Now that Japan is in trouble, Malaysia finds itself in a position to help. The world, in fact, has responded well to what the Japanese people are facing.

Just go to YouTube and click on the clips showing the earthquake, tsunami or resulting problems at the nuclear plants and you will see messages left by people offering their condolences and expressing concern and hope for the people of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sadly, however, there are the few who can't seem to bring their humanity to the fore. These same YouTube videos may have one or two messages left by people who seem to be still caught up in what happened during World War 2.

Most of them mention Pearl Harbour, saying the Japanese deserve such a disaster for that attack and for everything else the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy did between 1941 and 1945.

How sad that some people can't seem to forgive and forget. Come Dec 7 this year, it would be 70 years since that fateful day when the attack on the United States Navy base caught America napping and plunged it into World War 2. Most, if not all, of those involved that day have already gone.

Japan, though said to be an aging society, is now being led by subsequent generations. Are the sins of the father to be placed on the shoulders of the son, or in this case perhaps grandson or great-grandson?

Come Dec 8 this year, Malaysia "celebrates" the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Malaya. An invasion, in fact, which took place 45 minutes before Pearl Harbour.

And unlike America, we suffered under the harsh military rule of the Japanese for almost four years. Yet there are few Malaysians, if any, who would begrudge the Japanese aid at this point in time.

Thankfully, these few people who left messages full of vitriol found themselves being bashed black and blue by others.

Getting back to that press conference, racked with sadness as he was, Horie also showed a determination that reflects the stoicism of his people when he said Japan would rise again.

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