JCP member of parliament reviews 18 months of constitutional research council

Eighteen months have passed since the Constitution Research Councils were set up in both Houses of the parliament. The council in the Lower House has finished the study of the process of its legislation, and is now discussing what Japan in the 21st century should be like. Local hearings were held in Sendai City on April 16 and in Kobe City on June 4.

Haruna Naoaki, Japanese Communist Party House of Representative and a member of the Research Council, told Akahata about the Research Council meetings.

Even pro-revision witnesses called

-The Constitution Research Council has allowed a number of constitutional revision advocates to speak blatantly in favor of constitutional revision. This arouses much concern among the general public.

Haruna: Witnesses are selected by the Research Council's board made up of five Liberal Democratic Party members, three Democratic Party members and one Komei Party member, plus one each from the other parties as observers. Clearly, pro-constitutional revision forces are the majority, which do not include the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. This is why the many of the witnesses invited to express their opinions at the hearings are in favor of the revision of the Constitution.

Yet, I got the impression that in the discussion of specific issues, even those witnesses invited by pro-revision forces do not necessarily arrive at the conclusion that the Constitution should be changed now.

The same is true of issues which seem to be unrelated to the Constitution. A witness spoke about globalization, saying that in the course of the development of capitalism, the market becomes borderless and it even transforms nation states.

Referring to U.S.-led multinational corporations and international finance capital maximizing their profits without restraint, I pointed out that globalization has caused the serious North-South problem. I asked, "Is it not important for Japan to have relations with the rest of the world, standing firmly for peaceful coexistence as stipulated in the Constitution's preamble?"

The question on how we should recognize the rapidly changing world has offered a good opportunity for the argument firmly based on the Constitution.

- Many LDP members are absent from the meeting, and some leave the room or fall asleep probably because they take it a matter of course that their witnesses will express support for the position of the LDP. This is far removed from the council's proclaimed aim that it will make a wide-ranging and comprehensive study of the Japanese Constitution.

Haruna: Exactly so. The LDP has 25 council members, but I suppose less than half are present in a regular meeting. At my complaint about their absence, an LDP member said, "Sorry, next time we will fill more seats." This may be because they regard the council not as a forum to engage in a serious discussion of the constitution but merely as a means of revising the Constitution.

Not to be used for constitutional revision

-The JCP position toward the research council is clear, isn't it?

Haruna: The JCP was against the establishment of a research council in the Diet because we knew that it could turn into a foothold for revising the Constitution. In the end, the councils were established in both Houses, and we insisted that the councils be run in accordance with the proclaimed aim. We proposed that the research councils study the pioneering substance of the Constitution, examine LDP politics in light of the Constitution's pioneering principles, and identify the origins of the pro-revision argument.

In last year's study on how the Constitution came into being, Koseki Shoichi, professor at Dokkyo University, testified that the argument that the Constitution was imposed on Japan from outside originated in the 1954 Liberal Party's constitution research association. In this context, JCP council member Rikkai Sasaki pointed out that immediately after the establishment of the Constitution, the U.S. began to call for Japan to accept the need for a revision of the Constitution.

On the Constitution's pioneering substance, JCP member Yamaguchi Tomio late last year debated with Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro. Concerning Article 9, Governor Ishihara said that the ideal of entrusting the people's lives and security to peoples of foreign countries is a laughing-stock.

Yamaguchi refuted this by pointing out the fact that a campaign calling on governments to adopt a clause similar to Article 9 is spreading worldwide, especially in the U.S. Yamaguchi drew attention by saying that the task for Japan is to really put Article 9 into practice by phasing out the unconstitutional Self-Defense Forces.

- Two local hearings were held. What were they like?

Haruna: Frankly, I found them interesting and moving.

I strongly felt that at the grassroots level people were exerting earnest efforts to put into practice the constitutional ideals. Despite their being recommended by the LDP and the Democratic Party of Japan, more than half the witnesses gave their reports on practicing constitutional ideals and their desire to making social reality closer to the constitutional ideals.

For example, in the public hearing in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture, Kano Fuminaga, Kashimadai Town mayor, said that when he was a junior high school student he read the textbook entitled "The Story of the New Constitution." He said that it gave him the image of a future Japan in a brilliant light. He said that the Japanese Constitution endorses even the freedom to state that the Constitution is the source of all evils, and the society has accepted it. He added that in practicing local self-government, the Japanese Constitution is his ideal and guide for building a better community.

In the Kobe City hearing in Hyogo Prefecture, Kawanishi City Mayor Shibao Susumu talked about his experience in establishing the Child Ombudsperson System, a public third-party organization based on the convention of the rights of the child. The system was intended to overcome the serious situation in which some children chose to kill themselves because of being bullied. He said discussion must be addressed above all else to how the Constitution and the convention on the rights of the child be carried into practice with concrete substance. Hyogo Prefectural Governor Kaihara Toshitami in his reference to the crisis management issue connected with the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, said that is a legal and not a constitutional matter.

The two hearings showed that a very wide gap exists over the issue of the Constitution between local people at the grassroots level and deliberations in the Diet.

Right of collective self-defense is unjustifiable

- Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro insists that a study should start on the use of the right of collective self-defense, which is a step beyond the conventional interpretation of the Constitution.

Haruna: To date, no witnesses have argued that the right of collective self-defense is justified in the framework of the Constitution's Article 9. This is a question which has arisen due to U.S. political calculations. No academics will really support what Prime Minister Koizumi calls for. I want to completely denounce his argument.

- What will the JCP position be in the future Research Council meetings?

Haruna: To make the Research Council not a forum for constitutional revision but one of studying nation-building based on the Constitution, I am prepared for in-depth research and straightforward discussion. In accordance with the set aims of the research council, I want to propose a study into why the different interpretations of the Constitution came into existence.

Local hearings gave rise to common action. A rally for the defense of the Constitution jointly sponsored by three organizations realized success. In Kobe City, a drama entitled "A string of pearls" featuring Beate Sirota Gordon (who wrote into the draft Constitution equality clauses between men and women) became a hit.

Every time I read the Constitution as a research council member, I renew my confidence about the deep and pioneering substance of the Constitution. If we give full life to the Constitution in Japanese society, it will show what Japan should be like in the 21st century. (end)