Majority support whaling
More people support the nation’s controversial whale hunt than oppose it, a survey carried out on behalf of animal rights activists showed yesterday. Of 1,200 people questioned for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), 26.8 percent said the country should continue its hunt, compared with 18.5 percent who opposed it. The remainder expressed no opinion. The hunts are carried out using an exception allowed by a global moratorium. The government says it kills the mammals for scientific research even though the meat is later sold openly in shops and restaurants. Environmentalists routinely condemn the hunt and maintain it does not have the support of the people. In a press release, IFAW tried to put a positive gloss on the survey. “The good people of Japan are taking whalemeat off the menu,” said Patrick Ramage, director of IFAW’s global whale program, citing the 88.8 percent of respondents who said they had not bought whalemeat in the past year.
Chinese bus drivers strike
About 60 Chinese bus drivers stayed off-duty yesterday in the second day of a rare labor stoppage in the city-state. State-linked transport firm SMRT said that of the 102 who refused to work on Monday over a pay dispute, 60 did not turn up yesterday despite an agreement to do so. One of the drivers who refused to work on Monday said the workers felt aggrieved over a disparity in pay between Chinese and Malaysian bus drivers. After talks with SMRT management, with police on standby, the protesting drivers said they would report for work yesterday. The government has been hiring bus drivers from China and Malaysia because of a chronic shortage of manpower. The Ministry of Manpower issued a stern warning to the drivers, saying it “takes the workers’ actions very seriously.”
Islamists call for Elton ban
An Islamic political party yesterday urged the government to ban a concert by Elton John, saying the openly gay British pop icon promotes “immoral” values. John, who is popular in the country, is scheduled to perform on Thursday at a resort outside Kuala Lumpur. “This concert must be canceled. Artists who are involved in gay and lesbian activities must not be allowed to perform in Malaysia, as they will promote the wrong values,” Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, chief of the youth wing of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, told reporters. The legendary singer-songwriter, who is on the Asian leg of a worldwide tour, performed in the country in November last year to a sell-out crowd despite a similar protest from the Islamic party.
N Korea talks announced
Senior Japanese and North Korean diplomats will meet in Beijing next month following rare talks earlier this month, Tokyo’s top spokesman said yesterday. The talks will be held on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said. Top of the agenda is expected to be North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese in the Cold War era and its arms program, amid media reports that Pyongyang is preparing for a long-range missile test. Japan’s top negotiator will be Shinsuke Sugiyama and North Korea will be represented by Song Il-ho. They held two-day talks in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator in the middle of last month, marking the first senior-level meeting between the two nations in four years. After the meeting, Sugiyama said the atmosphere was “not acerbic.”