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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 March 15 - 21  > I can’t recall: Ishihara claims at assembly hearing on Toyosu scandal
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2017 March 15 - 21 [POLITICS]

I can’t recall: Ishihara claims at assembly hearing on Toyosu scandal

March 21, 2017
Akahata editorial

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly’s special commission summoned former Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro as a sworn witness on March 20 to investigate the scandal over the planned relocation of the Tsukiji Fish Market to the Toyosu district. Ishihara is the very person who gave final approval to the plan in 2001.

Ishihara has displayed an evasive attitude toward the issue, claiming that the relocation plan had been “practically finished” before he took office in 1999. At the hearing session, he said repeatedly, “I can’t recall as I left the matter entirely to the officials in charge.” At other hearings held several days before, however, former officials of the metropolitan government, including the then chiefs of the central wholesale market, testified that they had explained to Ishihara about the relocation project. Further investigation is needed to clarify this issue by summoning the ex-governor again.

‘No memory’ response is dishonest

How did the metropolitan authorities choose the Tokyo Gas factory site in Toyosu which is contaminated with highly toxic substances as the new market site? Why did the authorities make concessions to the gas company in negotiations over the land acquisition such as granting it immunity from the responsibility to cover all the cost of decontaminating the Toyosu site? As the chief executive who decided on the relocation plan, Ishihara has an obligation to provide Tokyoites with a full explanation concerning the series of allegations.

Ishihara acknowledged that he gave the green light to the transfer project, but insisted that there had already been a “broad consensus” about the project in the metropolitan government and that he heard from bureaucrats that it is “feasible” to decontaminate the property in question. He also said that he has “no recollection” of looking over the contract with Tokyo Gas which imposes unreasonable burdens on the metropolitan government in sharing the costs associated with decontamination. It is incredible that the top administrative leader has no memory of such a major contract amounting to more than 50 billion yen.

A former wholesale market chief stated clearly that he received Ishihara’s approval for that deal in October 2010. It is inexcusable for the ex-governor to try to wriggle himself out of any responsibility.

Having found various pollution problems at the Toyosu site, the metropolitan government in 2009 placed the decontamination cost at 58.6 billion yen, but decided to ask Tokyo Gas to pay only eight billion yen of the estimated total. A former chief of the wholesale market, in response to JCP questioning in the hearing, said that he explained this to Ishihara in 2011. The chief’s words carry weight because providing false testimony at the special investigation commission is punishable. Ishihara’s deceitful attitude is totally unacceptable.

Former Vice Governor Hamauzu Takeo, who had negotiated the land deal with Tokyo Gas under Ishihara’s orders, appeared as a sworn witness on March 19. The close aide of Ishihara said that he stopped engaging in the negotiation after the conclusion of a “basic agreement” in 2001. However, the JCP in the commission meeting presented an internal document in which Tokyo government officials in 2003 consulted the then vice governor Hamauzu regarding countermeasures to be taken on the soil pollution in Toyosu. This strongly suggests that Hamauzu’s testimony was a lie.

In hearing sessions held earlier, JCP questioning forced Tokyo Gas to admit to the existence of a written confirmation on the “basic agreement”. The confirmation document led to exempting the polluter company from paying a large part of the cleanup cost. In addition, the JCP revealed that Tokyo’s estimate of the Toyosu site’s value was leaked to Tokyo Gas before it was officially published. These revelations reveal hidden aspects of the relocation project. The special investigation commission is expected to use its power to uncover the whole picture.

Public concern growing over serious pollution at Toyosu site

A follow-up survey of the groundwater at the Toyosu site has detected various toxic chemicals such as benzene at 100 times above the upper limit set in environmental safety standards. Tokyo citizens are deepening their anxiety while wholesalers and traders are raising their voices in anger. Former Governor Ishihara and his successors as well as the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties which supported the governors should be held accountable for pushing forward with the relocation project. The urgent need now is to drastically revise the project to consider its cancellation.

Past related articles:
> Tokyo Assembly’s special commission launches investigation into Toyosu scandal [March 12 & 13, 2017]
> JCP-proposed special investigation commission on Toyosu issue to be convened [February 21, 2017]
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