One bad apple set to spoil Osaka’s ‘buraku’ aid barrel

by Eric Johnston

buraku

projects because the system of distributing funds could easily be abused,” he said. “Local political leaders at that time bear much of the blame for Osaka’s current scandals.”

Osaka pumped billions of yen into social welfare projects run by Konishi for more than three decades in line with its policy to ease the plight of the buraku people.

At the seminar, Nonaka did not address the implications of Konishi’s arrest and mob ties on current public attitudes toward the buraku community. The liberation league has apologized for what Konishi did as a senior in the group.

Supported by public momentum to slash funds for the community, Osaka this month approved plans to abolish 24 dowa-policy projects in March, ranging from human rights centers to computer education for the elderly.

The budget for these projects this year totaled about 3.48 billion yen.

“This reform plan aims to re-establish trust between the city and local citizens. We now have to work to get it carried out,” Mayor Junichi Seki said following Osaka’s acceptance of the plan.

The buraku community is meanwhile split on whether the projects facing the ax are necessary. Privately, some who work at the various centers agree with the critics.

“Quite frankly, I can’t really see what good we’re doing here. The facility I work at is more like a kind of private club for a few elderly people. I’ve often wondered if it wouldn’t make more sense just to close this place and put all of the information in a public library,” said one worker at a human rights center, speaking anonymously.

Over the past few weeks, senior members of the liberation league have waged a media campaign in an attempt to persuade local voters that buraku discrimination remains a problem and at least some continued official assistance is needed.

But they have been mum on public statements by opposition politicians and media reports that Konishi is just the tip of the iceberg and there are other organized crime figures within its ranks.

“It’s difficult to deny that the media reporting over the past six or seven months about Konishi and other scandals related to Osaka’s dowa policies have created a negative impression with members of the public when they hear the word dowa,” Michio Nogawa, a professor at Osaka City University and a dowa-policy expert, told the symposium.

Masayuki Oga, a member of the Osaka liberation league’s human rights research institute, added that the league shares some of the blame for the Konishi scandal. But he also blamed the media for sensationalizing the problem, and, like Nogawa, worries about the negative image.

“We in the buraku community have to work with the media to restore public trust, and we have to convince them not to eliminate the dowa projects that are worthwhile,” he said.