JGC workers angered by hostages’ deaths

Employees past and present worry future attacks possible

Kyodo

Employees of plant engineering firm JGC Corp. as well as relatives and friends of workers expressed anger and dismay after the government confirmed Monday that seven Japanese were killed during the hostage crisis at the Ain Amenas gas complex in Algeria last week.

In front of JGC headquarters in Yokohama on Tuesday morning, a 33-year-old employee said he was worried that he may someday be sent to work abroad.

“Setting aside Algeria, there are countries where the security situation is volatile, and how to ensure the security of plant construction sites in these countries remains a big problem,” said the employee, who has worked at the firm’s overseas plants.

The Algerian military ended a four-day standoff with militants at the gas complex in the Sahara on Saturday by launching an assault that left scores of hostages from various countries and their Islamist captors dead.

The government and JGC have not disclosed the names of the seven victims out of consideration for their families.

Another worker said the company could have taken precautionary steps after France conducted military intervention in Mali against Islamic insurgents. The militants who attacked the gas complex said they did so in retaliation of France’s actions.

“It is regrettable the company failed to foresee this kind of incident after we saw the French military going into Mali,” he said. “I hope the company will take more steps to ensure the safety of its employees based on this lesson.”

Retired JGC workers also expressed grief and disbelief.

A former employee in his 70s who had been involved in plant construction in Algeria was at a loss for words.

“The engineers have done nothing wrong. I hate the terrorist group,” he said.

“It is regrettable that (my juniors) had to be involved in this kind of incident,” said Yoshio Oh, a former JGC worker who now lives in Yokohama. “I want as many people to survive,” said Oh, 76, who worked from the mid-1970s in a division that handled construction of overseas plants and was in charge of places such as Algeria.

Oh voiced regret at the turn of events, remarking how JGC valued its work in Algeria and had built up over the years a “relationship of trust” with local people.

“Taking someone’s life in this manner is unacceptable,” said a former junior high school teacher of one of the missing, an on-site leader at the gas plant.

While a 64-year-old former JGC worker expressed his understanding of Algeria’s handling of the crisis, another man criticized the Algerian government for undertaking the military assault without notifying the countries whose nationals were among the hostages, saying, “I guess (for Algeria) the plant came before human beings.”

A man whose relative is believed to be one of the missing said, “It just seems so surreal. . . . I cannot bring myself to feel what is happening.”

Crisis plan review urged

The government will ask companies operating in developing countries to enhance their crisis management plans in the wake of the Algerian hostage crisis, but the incident will not prompt a drastic change in Japan’s overseas expansion strategy, industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi said.

“I want Japanese companies to review their crisis management manuals . . . but I don’t think this situation will bring an about-face to Japan’s international expansion strategy,” Motegi said Monday at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.