On the morning of 26th March 2016, around 20 UNMC students arrived by bus at the Perdana Leadership Foundation Auditorium in Precinct 8, Putrajaya to attend the “Coalition of Younger Generation Say ‘No’ to War” International Symposium, organised by the Criminalise War Club (CWC), a prestigious event and the first of its kind. Other attendees included students from the University of Malaya (UM), Sekolah Seri Cahaya Shah Alam and 21 Japanese delegates from Nagasaki.
The event began at around half past 9, with a welcome address by Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. Being the founder and chairperson of the Criminalise War Club, she sees the symposium as an opportunity to send a clear message to the younger generation that war is a crime. She based these views on her visit to Hiroshima museum, seeing the pictures of children who suffered from the blast – including 3 Malaysians who were there at the time.
The keynote address was then delivered by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the founder of Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War and former Malaysian Prime Minister. He expressed his gratitude for the large interest in attending the symposium, to the point where there was not enough room for all of the participants to sit in the hall. Some of them had to be ushered outside where they were updated on the proceedings from a large television screen.
He asserted that we must learn the importance of peace; killing is a crime and belongs to those of a primitive tribal mindset. He described the initiative to criminalise war as an exercise in consensus building, likening it to abolishing slavery.
The ceremony continued with Dr. Makio Miyagawa, the ambassador of Japan to Malaysia, introducing three speakers on the panel who gave the audience the opportunity to listen to the real voices of those who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The first speaker was Mr. Sumiteru Taniguchi, whose speech was translated by Ms. Akiko Kato. Taniguchi is the President of the Nagasaki Atomic Bombs Survivors Council and a 1st generation survivor or hibakusha. He first expressed his apologies for the atrocities committed during the Pacific War and then proceeded to explain his firsthand experiences of the blast and the years-long recovery process that he had to endure. The audience was shown grotesque pictures of Taniguchi’s back burns which forced him to lie on his stomach for a month. Even after decades, he still has not fully recovered.
The next speaker was Ms. Fumie Kakita, the Deputy Secretary General of Nagasaki Atomic Bombs Survivors Council and 2nd generation survivor. After giving an address from the mayor of Nagasaki to Mahathir, she also gave witness accounts – along with drawings of the victims. One of the drawings showed people who appeared to be sleeping on a school ground but were actually either dead or dying.
The last speaker was Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, who is the 14th President of an UNESCO affiliated organisation called International Association of Universities (IAU). His late father was the sole Malaysian survivor of the Hiroshima Atomic bomb. He asserted that if we want to stop war we have to start from our own conscience. He listed 5 principles he learned from his father of how to guard ourselves against war:
Be humble and dignified, say NO to all forms of aggression, do good deeds sincerely, help others always and keep to your principles without fear.
Afterwards, a Q&A session followed. Directed at all the panel speakers, a student from UM asked how youth engagement in the initiative could be encouraged. Dzulkifli emphasised knowledge in history and the philosophy of science. He condemned the separation of the sciences from the study of history, philosophy and ethics. He emphasised the importance of changing the idea of what science and technology is all about. Akiko Kato added that getting rid of ignorance is the most important thing.
A question was then addressed to Taniguchi by a student from China regarding Japan’s accountability for its crimes during the Second World War. Taniguchi answered the provocative question diplomatically, stating that the Japanese were also responsible for many atrocities during the war which is why efforts in establishing peace are ever more important. Some of the participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the student for her biased outlook and the inappropriate way in which she asked the question.
It’s not the right thing to do. We’re trying to talk about peace.
Omar, a UNMC student, asked if Taniguchi received any compensation from the US government, to which he answered that while there was a hearing at an International court, he did not sue the US government.
A series of statements was given by The Nagasaki Youth Delegation about the establishment of a youth division within CWC which was then followed by a presentation by two students from Sekolah Seri Cahaya, Shah Alam.
The students gave their insights on how the young generation can end war. Similar with the majority of the speeches given up until that point, they draw on moralistic arguments for why war should be criminalised.
According to them, war is undeniably unjust, and unjustifiable. Defining war as violence on a large scale, they listed the negative impacts of war towards individuals and countries alike. On the basis that countries that have superior economic capabilities will have a better advantage, they condemned it as unfair because it is not based on any moral rationalisation or justice. Furthermore, it causes PTSD, takes away lives, leads to suffering and shows gross disregard for the sanctity of life.
The students along with the Japanese delegates came forward on stage to express their aspirations in eradicating war and promote peace such as becoming politicians, filmmakers and jet pilots who specialise in humanitarian aid.
The first part of the symposium ended with an emotional poem entitled “Sleep well my brother” read by a pioneer CWC member, Puteri Fateh Arina Merican from Tunku Kurshiah College.
After a lunch break, a press conference with a panel consisting of some of the previous speakers and moderated by Professor Dato’ Salleh Buang was held. An agenda was set to hopefully establish a CWC in Japan and passing on the mantle to the young generation. Salleh laid out the procedures which included getting students to become members, finding a sponsor and writing a charter. What worries Japan is that the number of Atomic Bomb survivors are decreasing as years go by and whether or not the younger generation will continue their legacy. Dr Yaacob Hussain Merican recalled the words from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Dzulkifli also emphasised taking into account the Sustainable Development Goals in order for the club to be recognised globally.
Ms Kakita gave an account of the many hibakusha groups all over Japan and stated an upcoming peace declaration in August. The aim is to include middle school, high school and university students to contribute to Peace Education – an initiative spearheaded by the teacher’s union during the 1970’s which held many discussions on the Japanese constitution, the Security Bill and the JSDF.
The session closed with an award giving ceremony to all the guests and a number of cultural performances by the Japanese students.
The participants generally considered the symposium to be a good experience and opportunity for a platform. Some of them expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of topics that they felt needed to be addressed such as nationalism and terrorism. However, it was acknowledged that the event’s focus was on the experiences of the survivors, and in that sense the symposium was a success.
I think this event is good and necessary for listening to the stories of people from the past, so that they [the younger generation] won’t repeat the same mistakes when they take over leading the country.
-Student from Sekolah Seri Cahaya
They gave a lot of reasons for us to stop crime and war, which I find very relevant and logical and I think I learned a lot.
-Student from UM
by Nabilah Alshari
Author’s note: The Criminalise War Magazine can be viewed online here.
Source of images: Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War Facebook