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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 28 - November 3  > PM Suga fails to clearly respond to Diet questioning by JCP Shii
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2020 October 28 - November 3 TOP3 [POLITICS]

PM Suga fails to clearly respond to Diet questioning by JCP Shii

October 30, 2020
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo in his interpellation made on October 29 at the plenary session of the House of Representatives took up the issue of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide's decision to reject six professors to Science Council of Japan membership and the issue of COVID-19 countermeasures. PM Suga gave no clear response to questions about his intervention in the personnel affairs of the SCJ and just repeated the conventional response to questions regarding anti-coronavirus efforts.

Suga exposes his incompetency to give logical explanation

Shii said that the SCJ Act guarantees the independence of the SCJ and that successive governments based on this stipulation adopted a stance of "not refusing any nominees" put forward, and added, "The prime minister's refusal of scholars for membership is in breach of the SCJ Act."

Article 15 of the Constitution states that the right to select and dismiss public officials resides with the people as sovereigns of Japan, and that the actual selection and dismissals are entrusted to the relevant individual law made at the Diet in representing the people. Shii said, "Judging from Japan's Constitution, PM Suga's refusal of the six violates Article 15 of the Constitution."

The government interprets Article 15 of the Constitution as allowing the government to reject persons who are "obviously inadequate to everyone". Shii asked if the six professors were "obviously inadequate to everyone", and if so, why they were "inadequate".

In reply, PM Suga just said, "I made the decision based on Article 15 of the Constitution."

Shii noted that PM Suga criticized the SCJ list of recommendations as "too biased" and "not naming young scholars or researchers from the private sector", and attacking the SCJ for not placing much "importance on diversity". Shii asked, "If that is the case, why did you bar from the SCJ a researcher in his early 50s, the only nominee from one university, and a woman professor when an increase in female membership is required?

PM Suga defiantly replied, "As the appointer, I made my own judgements."

Article 23 of the Constitution advocates "academic freedom", reflecting upon Japan's past crackdown on academics, the repression of the people's right to freedom of speech and expression, and the devastation brought about by war. Shii said, "The issue is not only about the Science Council of Japan. There would be no future in politics which forcibly excludes objections," and demanded the retraction of Suga's rejection of the six.

Urgent demands for measures to prevent possible third wave of COVID-19

Regarding the ongoing fight against COVID-19 in which a possible third wave is a matter of concern, Shii stressed that a drastic expansion of PCR testing capacity and strengthening of healthcare systems are the most important key in keeping a balance between infection control and economic activity. He urged PM Suga to declare a shift in the government coronavirus strategy and implement an aggressive testing strategy, the aim of which includes tracing and identifying asymptomatic people. He also pushed PM Suga to provide financial support to medical facilities suffering a loss of earnings due to the pandemic.

In addition, Shii pointed out that amid the prolonged pandemic situation, the business and employment crisis has become very serious. Stating that Japan may face a coronavirus-led great depression, if no action is taken, Shii put forward the following urgent demands:

- the implementation of effective measures to distribute emergency financial support to all SME workers who are ordered to take leave without pay and to all business owners who are struggling to stay afloat;
- continuation and improvement of the government’s direct support programs and the creation of a “post-coronavirus recovery fund for the arts and culture”; and
- lowering the consumption tax rate to 5% and creation of a two-year sales tax holiday for small business owners with financial difficulties.

Shii referred to PM Suga’s political principle placing importance on self-help efforts, and said, “Amid the pandemic situation, many people have made enough self-help efforts and have almost reached their limits. What the government should do now is to help people survive the hardships and fulfil its responsibility to protect and better people’s livelihoods.”

In response, however, PM Suga showed no intent to empathize with adversely affected people and just said that it is necessary to respect people’s will to exert their ingenuity to overcome the corona crisis.

Past related articles:
> JCP Shii calls for Diet efforts to push Suga gov’t to participate in UN N-ban treaty [October 27, 2020]
> Support program for coronavirus-hit SME workers should be improved: JCP Miyamoto [October 23, 2020]
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