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MP Kazuya Maruyama’s Comment on the First African American President Stokes Controversy

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During a February 17th meeting of the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Councillors, LDP MP Kazuya Maruyama noted that the United States is a country where dynamic reforms are possible and cited as an example the fact that a “slave” could become president. The House of Councillors is official name of the Upper House of the Japanese parliament.

A lot of people criticized this statement, calling it “violent.” Maruyama later apologized, saying that he had made a comment that could invite misunderstanding. He requested that the statement be stricken from the official record of the commission’s proceedings. He stated that he did not intend for the comment to be racist, and instead had simply wished to praise the US and express respect for the fact that the United States has made great progress throughout its history.

The three opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Lives Party, submitted a bill requesting his resignation as an MP. They stated that the comment was racist, would undermine trust between Japan, South Korea and the US, and  showed disrespect for basic human rights.

The comment came while MP Maruyama was talking about a hypothetical situation where Japan is admitted as the 51st state of the US, and underscoring the constitutional problems with such a situation. He argued that if Japan were to become the 51st state of the US, then there would be no need to debate the right to collective self-defense, and that the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea would not have happened. He went on to explain that if Japan were to be the US 51st state, then it would be hugely influential in American politics and government. He then noted that it would mean that a person from Japan could become an American president, and cited as an example the fact that the current president is black. He added: “Frankly speaking, he is a descendant of slaves.” Lincoln freed the slaves, but they still did not have basic human rights, including civil rights. As a result, Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged and led the civil rights movement, which ended with the expansion of civil rights [to blacks]. However, at the time the US was founded, no one imagined the possibility of slaves becoming president. The US is a country that can make dynamic reforms like this. From that perspective, I would like to ask whether there would be a constitutional problem if Japan had such a [radical] change?”

This incident was the second embarrassment for the LDP in the Commission on the Constitution in the past months. In June of last year, the LDP invited three constitutional scholars who testified that the security bills were unconstitutional. Because the security bills were drafted and submitted by the LDP and the scholars we invited to testify that they were constitutional, the media declared: “LDP Scores Own Goal.”

MP Kazuya Maruyama was a lawyer before he was elected to parliament. In 1970, he passed the Japanese bar exam, after which he went to Washington University Law School to get an LLM. He then worked for a law firm in Los Angeles for three years.

He became famous and popular among the Japanese public when he appeared in a TV show called, 行列ができる法律相談事務所 (Gyoretsu Ga Dekiru Horitsu Sodan Jimusho), which translates roughly to the “firm that people line up.” In the show, several lawyers give funny and easy-to-understand legal advice to the legal questions submitted by viewers. He became popular because he was seen as funny, and this paved the way for his political career. He first ran for the Upper House election on the LDP list in 2007, and has been reelected since.  

Former governor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, was also a lawyer who became popular on the same TV show. He was known as the lawyer with the chestnut colored hair (he dyed it as a fashion statement) before he began his career in politics.

US citizen’s comment  “Obama actually isn’t a descendant of slaves because his father was from Kenya.”

Source http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20160218/k10010413871000.html http://logmi.jp/127029

Here’s an article by a Japanese journalist praising Obama.

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