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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 4 - 10  > Majority of speakers at public hearing express opposition to bill to establish procedures for constitutional revision
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2007 April 4 - 10 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Majority of speakers at public hearing express opposition to bill to establish procedures for constitutional revision

April 6, 2007
A majority of seven speakers chosen from applicants nationwide expressed their opposition to the bill and called for careful discussions.

The House of Representatives Special Committee for Research on the Constitution on April 5 held a public hearing on a bill to establish procedures for constitutional revision (national referendum bill).

In a tense situation in which the ruling parties intend to push the bill through the committee by April 12, a majority of seven speakers chosen from applicants nationwide expressed their opposition to the bill and called for careful discussions.

“I am concerned that with a constitutional revision, the fundamental principles of the Constitution could be undermined,” Lawyer Niwayama Shoichiro said. He stressed the need to establish a system to screen out a proposal for constitutional revision that overrides the Constitution. He also pointed out that a number of people regard this bill itself as part of constitutional revision, and that the public confidence, that this bill will establish only politically neutral procedures, is rapidly eroding.

Lawyer Morikawa Fumito pointed out that the general public needs no constitutional revision in the first place. Referring to the fact that the Liberal Democratic Party already published its draft of the Constitution and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is eagerly calling for a constitutional revision, Morikawa said, “It is obvious that the LDP wants to enact this bill, that fails to meet democratic requirements, as soon as possible in order to smoothly pass a proposal for constitutional revision.”

Pointing out that public servants have the duty to enforce the Constitution in the interest of the public, Matsushige Miwa, a local government employee, criticized the bill for restricting public servants’ activities concerning constitutional revision, stating, “It runs counter to the Constitution to impose on public servants a ban on their involvement in the discussions on the Constitution.” She demanded that the bill which is inseparable from the LDP’s draft of the Constitution be scrapped, and that a fresh start be made.

Housewife Tanabe Hatsue criticized the way of inviting public speakers at the hearings, stating, “It is impossible for the general public to be a speaker when the government announced it only on the Internet.” Disclosing that she had received the invitation only three days before the hearing, Tanabe said, “I express my objection to such a sloppy way of holding this public hearing in which we should discuss a bill concerning the nation’s supreme legislation.” She asked the straightforward question why the Constitution needs to be revised.

Pointing to the failure of setting the minimum voter turnout in a referendum, four speakers criticized the bill for allowing a minority of the public to revise the Constitution.

In regard to the restriction on public servants’ activities, even a speaker who supports the bill said it is inappropriate to apply the Public Servant Law, which imposes criminal penalties on public servants for taking part in political activities, to campaigns concerning a referendum on a revision of the Constitution.

Some speakers also expressed their concern over the possibility that paid advertisements will be monopolized by the well-financed, pro-constitutional revision forces.

After the public hearing, Kasai Akira, a committee member representing the Japanese Communist Party, spoke to some 150 people gathering in front of the Diet Building.

Pointing out that 108 out of 124 applicants to be speakers at the public hearing are opposed to the bill, Kasai criticized the ruling parties for attempting to bulldoze through the bill in complete disregard of the opposition of the public.
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