(Tokyo Shimbun: January 29, 2016 – p. 5)
Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari has resigned from the cabinet to take responsibility for issues with his office’s political funds. Politicians must not be moved by money. Continuous efforts should be made to investigate this case thoroughly.
Amari is a political ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a key member of the cabinet. His resignation is certain to deal a heavy blow to the Prime Minister.
He was involved with the negotiations for the TPP agreement to be signed on Feb. 4 and personally, Abe had wanted to retain him. However, it is inappropriate for a minister tainted with a political fund issue to stay on his job. Resignation was the proper thing to do.
At his news conference yesterday, Amari admitted that he received 500,000 yen from a construction company at the minister’s office in November 2013 and another 500,000 yen at his office in his constituency in Yamato City, Kanagawa Prefecture in February 2014, but stressed that the money was reported properly as political donation. He also denied any attempt to influence the Urban Renaissance Agency (UR).
With regard to the 3 million yen not recorded in his political fund accounting report, he acknowledged that his secretary at the constituency office spent the money for personal purposes.
Amari apologized for neglecting supervision of his constituency office because he was too focused on national administration. However, his secretary is not exempted from taking responsibility for illegal acts just because he is a cabinet minister.
Although Amari has resigned from the cabinet, he still needs to take responsibility as a Diet member. It is unacceptable for this case to be closed. Yesterday’s news conference was merely Amari’s interim report; he has not revealed the whole truth. He should continue his investigation of this case.
Fact finding in the Diet is also necessary. Shukan Bunshun also reported influence-peddling with the UR through his secretary. If that is true, Amari may have violated the law prohibiting making profit from influence peddling.
The people have strong suspicions that politicians are still moved by money. The Diet should summon the relevant individuals as sworn or unsworn witnesses to find out the whole truth.
As a member of the Diet, Amari should present himself at the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics and do his best to give an explanation.
Certain Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members have made remarks sympathetic to Amari. House of Councillors member Akiko Santo objected to the “despicable manner” of the construction company official who blew the whistle. Vice President Masahiko Komura suggested that Amari was “framed.” Why have LDP members not come out to question Amari’s responsibility?
The people have a strong opinion on “politics and money” issues. Those who forget this cannot help being criticized with respect to the administration’s laxity or the arrogance of powerholders. The government as a whole needs to do some serious soul-searching.