Japanese Official Hails Yemen’s Democratization [Archives:1999/15/Law & Diplomacy]

April 12 1999

Mr. Masataka Ishida is the Counselor and Deputy Head of Mission in the Embassy of Japan. He is soon to complete his term of assignment in Yemen. On this occasion, Ismail Al-ghabri of Yemen Times filed the following interview:-
Q: What is your new post?
A: I’ll be Counselor and deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Japan in Doha, Qatar. So I’m shifting from one Arab country to another.
Q: With what impression do you leave Yemen?
A: Yemen is geographically as well as historically a very attractive country. This country also has an important part of human heritage. At the same time, Yemen is an up-to-date country. It has good resources to support the whole nation.
I am impressed with the democratization process and the efforts to strengthen cooperation with the rest of the world.
Q: What changes did you witness during your service in Yemen?
A: I have stayed in Yemen almost four years. During this time, I have noticed many changes for the better. First, you have economic reforms. The government is trying hard to raise the level of economic efficiency. It is also tackling political transformation leading towards a more democratic government system.
I was glad to be involved in those changes as the Japanese Government is one of the major donors for Yemen. I was also fortunate to attend as a representative of my government two major donor conferences on Yemen. First I attended the The Hague meeting in 1996, which was organized by the Dutch Government, the World Bank and the IMF. We discussed development issues. We reached a number of recommendations. Then there was the Consultative Group Meeting which was held in Brussels, Belgium, in 1997. Again I was chosen as a representative of my government.
Q: How do you assess bilateral relations?
A: I always wished that the troublingly long distance between Yemen and Japan was shorter. Even then, relations continue to grow and expand at many levels.
I have a strong feeling that more Yemeni people should go to Japan, and more Japanese people should come to Yemen, not only as tourists but also for political dialogue and economic exchange. I hope that the two governments will further promote bilateral relations.
Q: What is your assessment of President Saleh’s visit to Japan?
A: Both sides said that the visit was very successful. It was also very special as it was the first visit by a head of state of Yemen.
I think that the visit opened the way for further enhancement of the bilateral relations. But, I do see the need to follow up the results of the visit.
Q: Have you and your wife had much contact with Yemenis during your stay here?
A: You know that the husband is always trapped in the office environment, so I should admit that my contact with the local Yemeni people was limited, against my wish. My first priority was work. So my wife was able to make up for my shortcomings. She participated in teaching young Yemenis the Japanese language. The chairman of the Yemeni-Japanese Friendship Association, Haj Mohammed Adhban, lent us space for this purpose. My wife was the only Japanese teacher in this program. This activity provided her with many wonderful associations with the Yemeni people. We also organized some sport events like socker, basketball, volleyball as well many other games , in addition to social parties.
My wife, children and myself enjoyed Yemen a lot. Yemen has such nice weather, environment and landscape.
Q: How many Japanese people live in Yemen?
A: There are about 40 Japanese persons in this country. Some of them are here to study and some others are for other purposes. It is a strikingly small number compared to the activities of the Japanese government here.
Q: Can you give us an idea about Japanese assistance to Yemen?
A: Japan is one of the top aid partners of Yemen. We are glad to see a good reaction of the Yemeni public to Japanese assistance. We certainly shall continue our effort.
Japan concentrates on manpower development especially in such fields as health and education. We also provide aid through our grass-roots level activities to NGOs.
Q: Any last comments?
A: I like Yemen. My stay in Yemen has been the longest in my whole diplomatic career and I hope to come back to Yemen in the future. I would like to see Yemen by then more developed and improved. I hope also to keep in touch with my good Yemeni friends.