This week the British newspaper the Independent revealed the truth behind Japanese vote buying at the International Whaling Commission.

All it took was a query to the Japanese foreign affairs office to reveal that the Japanese last year donated 617 million yen ($2.9m) to St Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean nation that hosted the IWC conference. Japan also gave $5.6m to Nicaragua, while the Pacific island nation of Palau got $2.7m.

All three countries voted with Japan, Iceland, and Norway at the IWC conference in favor of the "St Kitts and Nevis Declaration," calling for the 20-year ban on commercial whaling to be eventually scrapped. The pro-whaling camp won the ballot by just one vote.

Japan has long been accused of using aid packages to swing the 70-member IWC back into the pro-whaling camp. Many of the commission's 20 newest members, such as the Marshall Islands and St Kitts and Nevis, have no history of whaling and several, including Mongolia and Mali, have no coastlines.

What they all have in common is that they have received large aid packages from Japan.

Japan has also been paying the IWC subscriptions of many of these nations. Togo, which turned up late to the conference with its $10,000 membership fee in Japanese yen in a paper bag, is a good example of this.

But the latest information provided by the Independent is the most detailed yet on Japan's grants to its supporters and has led to calls for further investigation into the relationship between Japanese foreign aid and pro-whaling votes.

Japan's IWC negotiator, Joji Morishita, denied that his country bought its way to victory. claiming that the charges were an attempt by the "anti-whaling bloc" to smear countries that want to return "to sustainable use of whale resources".

Morishita has been proven to be a liar with this latest information.

An anonymous foreign ministry official, speaking to the Yomiuri newspaper this week, called allegations of vote-buying "Japan-bashing."

Playing the race card will not make the truth disappear. There is nothing racist about exposing the facts about Japanese bribery and corruption in support of their illegal whaling activities.

The pro-whaling movement in Japan and the effort to end the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling has been spear-headed by right wing politicians who have invested more than $54.9m in public money since 2000 on six Caribbean nations, despite indifference at home to whaling. An internet survey released last week claimed that more than 70 percent of Japanese people oppose a return to commercial whaling. Whale eating has been declining in Japan since the 1960s and is eaten regularly by less than 1 per cent of the population.

According to the Independent the government's campaign has flown largely beneath the Japanese media's radar. The conference, for instance, to which Japan sent 59 delegates - nearly five times as many as the UK - received scant coverage until the vote was announced. Conservative newspapers have since hailed the result as a victory for Japanese negotiators.

The aid question was tabled by Shokichi Kina, a member of the opposition Democratic Party. "Japanese people don't even eat whales or dolphins any more but still the government is pressing ahead," he said. "It's ridiculous to hear the fisheries ministry say stocks are increasing when nobody really knows if that's true."

The government said it had also awarded millions of yen in "grant aid" to Peru in an attempt to get them to support commercial whaling, and also to Samoa and Algeria, which Japan is trying to recruit. The St. Kitts grant was signed on 1 July 2005, just after the IWC conference in South Korea. The government did not deny the "vote-buying" charge in its reply to Mr Kina.

Yakusa Connection

How is it that tens of millions of public dollars can be spent promoting an industry that is not even popular in Japan? How can decisions be made to send millions of dollars to Caribbean nations in order to buy votes to support this same industry? What pressures are being brought to bear?

We know that the union that represents the seaman that work on the Japanese whaling vessels is politically powerful. We also know that the same union is intimately connected with the Yakusa, the Japanese mafia.

The illegal Japanese whaling industry is surviving because of bribery, corruption, and influence peddling - all hallmarks of the way the Yakusa do business.

The movement to escalate whaling by Japan, smells of Yakusa influence and explains the ruthless arrogance of the Japanese whaling industry.

The captain of the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru has already demonstrated his willingness to use violence against activists and has threatened to kill anyone who interferes with his operations.

Sea Shepherd's efforts appear to be more dangerous than we thought. If we are opposing gangsters intent upon the destruction of the whales for profit, we do indeed have a formidable foe.

This means we need to exercise the utmost caution, but not even the Yakusa will diminish our commitment to defending the whales from the cruel criminal harpoons of the Japanese whalers.

What we must do is stop them and Sea Shepherd is now undertaking active preparations to return to the waters along the coast of Antarctica to intercept and engage the Japanese whaling fleet.

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