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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Hiroshima mayor urges gov't to honor 69 years without war


Despite heavy rain, people pray in front of a memorial cenotaph for atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2014, the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. (Mainichi)

Despite heavy rain, people pray in front of a memorial cenotaph for atomic bomb victims at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2014, the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- Amid debate on the right to collective self-defense, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui delivered a speech on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in which he called on the central government to "accept the full weight of the fact that we have avoided war for 69 years thanks to the noble pacifism of the Japanese Constitution."

A flood warning went into effect in the city of Hiroshima in the early hours of Aug. 6, the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing. Heavy rain poured down on the Peace Memorial Park in the city's Naka Ward, where the ceremony would take place, but crowds flocked to the park even before dawn, and pressed their palms together in silence in front of a memorial cenotaph for atomic bomb victims. It was the first time in 43 years that the ceremony would take place in rain.

The ceremony, which began at 8 a.m., was attended by some 45,000 bomb survivors and bereaved family members, as well as representatives from 68 countries. Of the five major nuclear powers, representatives from the United States, Britain, France and Russia were present.

The Peace Declaration delivered by Mayor Matsui incorporated stories of people whose lives changed dramatically as a result of their bombing experiences during childhood. He talked about the thousands of boys and girls who died removing buildings for fire lanes. He spoke about the ghastly experiences of A-bomb orphans, and about a child who suffered the aftereffects of radiation exposure. He called nuclear bombs an "absolute evil" that "robbed children of loving families and dreams for the future, plunging their lives into turmoil."

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui delivers the peace declaration at a ceremony in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Aug. 6, 2014. (Mainichi)

Matsui went on to urge leaders of various countries to "stop using the inhumane threat of this absolute evil to defend your countries," and instead "apply all your resources to a new security system based on trust and dialogue." He urged leaders of nuclear-armed countries -- calling only on U.S. President Barack Obama by name -- to visit the atomic bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, the mayor did not mention the debate over collective self-defense, despite a petition submitted by the public that the issue be addressed in his speech. Matsui also avoided calling directly on the central government to begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons treaty that would ban the development, production, and use of nuclear weapons. Neither did he discuss Japan's energy policy, which he'd brought up in his past three speeches.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who attended the ceremony as he did last year, gave a speech in which he vowed to "push forth with efforts to realize 'a world without nuclear weapons'" and promised to "put heart and soul into certifying people with atomic bomb illness as soon as possible." He did not promise to "observe the Constitution," a phrase that was included in his speech during his first term as prime minister, but not last year. With the exception of references to recent government efforts, the address closely resembled last year's speech.

During the ceremony, Mayor Matsui, along with two people representing bereaved families, placed three books containing the names of the 5,507 atomic bomb survivors who died in the past year inside a vault underneath the memorial cenotaph. This brings the number of people listed to 292,325, and the number of books to 107.

Participants observed a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m., the time the bomb was dropped.

Reiko Tamura and Yuichiro Muta, both 11 years old, gave a speech representing the children in attendance.

"We are waiting for you all here in Hiroshima," they said. "Together let's talk about peace and about the future."
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August 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)


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