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Minister faces censure over Abe scandal

China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-15 07:34

TOKYO - Japan's main opposition Democratic Party on Tuesday filed a censure motion against a senior minister in the latest education scandal to hit the government.

Japan's Education Ministry said on Friday that it would reinvestigate the existence of documents that may implicate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior officials in allowing Kake Educational Institution, run by a close friend of Abe's, to open a new veterinary school at a location highly deregulated by the government.

The censure motion has been brought against the Regional Revitalization Minister Kozo Yamamoto.

KEI is chaired by Abe's close friend Kotaro Kake and was selected for the project in a meeting held between the central and local governments in the special strategic zone in January.

It operates Okayama University of Science, which was handpicked by the government to open the new veterinary medicine school in Ehime Prefecture, one of Japan's special zones that were formed as part of Abe's economic strategy.

The local city assembly provided the land to the institution to build the new department for free and in addition gave 9.6 billion yen ($86 million) as a subsidy for the construction costs.

It was the first time in 50 years that the government approved a plan to open a new veterinary department.

This month, a former vice-education minister released a statement backing up his previous assertions that senior government advisers had pressured him to accelerate procedures to open the school.

Opposition parties have called for Maekawa, who has admitted to having knowledge of documents that could be potentially damaging to Abe, be summoned to the Parliament - known as the Diet - to give testimony under oath.

The Education Ministry carried out an internal investigation. However, the probe was criticized by both opposition parties and the public after the ministry said the documents could not be found.

Along with Maekawa, the opposition believe that the education ministry had prepared a document stating that the Cabinet Office said that "Abe backs the plan" to open the new school.

The document also reportedly suggests that the education ministry was told by the Cabinet Office that the choice for the new department "was heard to have been the prime minister's wish."

The Democratic Party also maintains that one of the documents in question shows that negotiations had taken place between the ministry and the Cabinet Office regarding the time frame for opening the new department, which had been scheduled for April 2018.

It is claimed that one document states: "This is what the highest level of the prime minister's office has said."

Another document mentioned that opening the department at an early juncture was "in line with the prime minister's wishes".

Separately, a censure motion was also filed against Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda on Tuesday by the Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party over his alleged mishandling of deliberations on a controversial conspiracy bill that if passed could give unprecedented powers to law enforcement officers to infringe on people's civil rights.

Xinhua

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