The Yomiuri Shimbun
Gaffe-prone lawmakers need greater awareness of their responsibilities
There has recently been a succession of inappropriate remarks made by Diet members from both the ruling and opposition parties and by Cabinet members. This could heighten distrust in politics. They should be aware that they are in a position of heavy responsibility, and also feel a sense of alertness.
The remarks in question include one made by Kazuya Maruyama, a House of Councillors member from the Liberal Democratic Party. At a session of the upper house Commission on the Constitution, he said: “In the United States, a black man is president [of the country] now. He is in a bloodline of black people who were slaves.” The remark could be taken as an expression of racial discrimination. Besides, the father of President Barack Obama was a Kenyan and not a descendant of slaves.
The day after making that remark, Maruyama attempted to justify himself by saying, “I said that with the intention of praising the fact that the current United States came into being through self-transformation.” However, this cannot possibly be understood.
Maruyama also said, “If Japan becomes the 51st state of the United States, no controversy could erupt over its right of collective self-defense, and the abduction problem would not have arisen, either.” This is just preposterous and a remark that raises questions about his qualifications as a legislator.
The opposition Democratic Party of Japan cannot treat the recent inappropriate remarks as having nothing to do with itself.
Masaharu Nakagawa, a House of Representatives member from the DPJ, said at a meeting of party lower house members, “Let’s fight to ensure Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe develops a sleep disorder.”
Nakagawa made the remark when he referred to Akira Amari, former minister in charge of economic revitalization, who has been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Nakagawa’s remark lacked consideration for people who suffer from such a condition.
The prime minister has expressed a sense of displeasure with the remark, saying it is “a question of human rights.”
Focus on serious issues
There are a number of themes to be discussed in the Diet now, including the revitalization of the Japanese economy and the situation in northeast Asia. We hope each lawmaker will come to tackle Diet deliberations more seriously and deepen constructive discussions.
Needless to say, Cabinet members must speak and act with even greater caution.
During a lecture in which she referred to the nuclear accident that occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa said the government’s decontamination goal of reducing radiation levels to an annual dose of one millisievert or less had “no scientific grounds.”
Later, she offered an apology, saying, “I said that [with the aim of] stating that a full explanation has not been given about why [the target] was set at one millisievert.” In the end, Marukawa retracted her original remark.
In response to requests from communities affected by the accident to thoroughly decontaminate their areas, the administration led by the then ruling DPJ announced it would pursue the goal of curtailing radiation levels to one millisievert or less. By international standards, evacuees from a nuclear accident-affected area can return to their community if radiation levels stand at 20 millisieverts or lower.
It has been pointed out that the high decontamination goal is hindering efforts to ensure that evacuees from communities struck by the disaster can return home, and to rehabilitate the affected areas.
Although Marukawa’s remark seems to make sense in some respects, there is no denying her statement was unguarded and worded immaturely.
Kensei Mizote, chairman of the LDP caucus of upper house members, referred to former lower house member Kensuke Miyazaki, who was discovered to have been seeing another woman just before his wife gave birth. “Some people may feel envious [of Miyazaki],” Mizote said. Though Mizote may have said this as a joke, his remark was thoughtless.
The LDP is being viewed sternly, for reasons such as the scandal involving Miyazaki, who had proposed establishing a system by which Diet members would be allowed to take childcare leave.
Does all this demonstrate that the LDP may be filled with conceit at a time when the party is the sole dominant force in political circles? Now is the time for the LDP to pull itself together.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 21, 2016)