Friday, 30 April 2010

Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama says in his weekly email "magazine" that he wants to attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of Minamata disease, to take place on 1 May. The release reveals that he remains uncertain whether he will be allowed to attend tomorrow's ceremony.

The 370-word release announces the government of Japan will "start accepting applications for compensation from Minamata disease victims from May 1" as a result of a "court" decision of 15 March where "settlement conditions and other arrangements for an ongoing trial with the patients' group" were presented.

A 19 March Japan Times story notes that:

The government will accept a court-brokered settlement in a damages suit filed by unrecognized sufferers of Minamata disease...

The same article notes that there are 2126 plaintiffs in the case. The defendants are the government, Kumamoto Prefecture and chemical maker Chisso Corporation, the company that allowed mercury to leak into the Yatsushiro Sea, off Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu.

The plaintiffs, "unrecognised victims" of the mercury poisoning, will be given money, according to a 5 April editorial in the Japan Times.

Each unrecognized victim will receive a lump-sump payment of ¥2.1 million and a monthly medical allowance of ¥12,900 to ¥17,700. The association of plaintiffs will also receive ¥2.95 billion.

The opinion piece implies that the criteria used in the past to assess whether a person is a sufferer of Minamata disease, were too "strict". And it also implies that the current government's criteria are still to strict, and

One of the things the central government must do is align its criteria with those adopted by the top court.

Hatoyama's email release says that "the Cabinet decided on a policy for relief measures based on the special measures law related to the relief of Minamata disease victims and resolution of the Minamata disease problem in the April 16 meeting".

In a 17 April story by the Japan Times, the number of sufferers are "expected to total more than 35,000".

But the editorial also notes that:

The latest agreement in principle excludes people born after November 1969. The geographical areas covered by the agreement are also limited.

Further, the 19 April story says that:

The disorder was also confirmed in Niigata Prefecture in 1965, linked to contaminated wastewater from a plant owned by Showa Denko K.K.

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