The farce in which ruling and opposition parties are swayed by dubious remarks by a private citizen should no longer be allowed to continue. The Diet should uncover the truth, thereby ending the turmoil.
The budget committees of both chambers of the Diet have decided to summon Yasunori Kagoike, who has announced his resignation as president of educational corporation Moritomo Gakuen, as a sworn witness for questioning to take place on Thursday. Kagoike is legally obliged to attend Diet sessions and if he gives false testimony, he will be charged with perjury.
In connection with the construction of an elementary school that was originally scheduled to open this spring, Kagoike told directors of the House of Councillors Budget Committee, “I received a donation of ¥1 million from Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe via his wife, Akie.” He claims to have received the donation when Akie gave a speech at the kindergarten run by Moritomo Gakuen in September 2015.
Abe denied the allegation at the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Friday, saying: “It’s impossible that I donated such a huge amount of money. Nor did it happen via my wife or office.” Abe said clearly that Akie had not given the donation, either.
In previous Diet interpellations, Abe emphasized, “Neither my wife nor myself was involved in [Moritomo Gakuen’s] collection of donations.”
Assertions by the two parties are completely at odds. Even if the donation was actually made, it would not be illegal because it was outside the constituency from which Abe was elected. But Kagoike’s remarks badly damaged the trustworthiness of Abe’s replies to interpellations in the Diet. It was natural that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party responded strongly against Kagoike’s statement, saying, “It’s an insult to the prime minister.”
Kagoike must tell facts
The ruling coalition parties originally were negative about summoning Kagoike to the Diet for questioning as they judged that there was no illegality in the sale of a national land lot where the school in question is being built and out of consideration for the fact that Kagoike is a private citizen.
They changed tack this time and agreed to summon him as a sworn witness, instead of just as a witness who is not obliged to meet the request for summoning, because they aim to clear up doubts about Abe by pressing Kagoike to tell the facts.
Kagoike has been making the commotion bigger by unilaterally disseminating assertions day after day that are self-serving and difficult to justify. Even Diet interpellations have focused on the scandal involving Moritomo Gakuen, leaving deliberations on key domestic and foreign policies on the back burner. This is an utterly extraordinary situation that cannot be ignored.
Kagoike had repeatedly said, “There was nothing done by the prime minister and his wife Akie [for the school].” This is inconsistent with his claim that he “received the donation.” Wasn’t the donation recorded in the accounts of Moritomo Gakuen? He will be called on to give detailed explanations when he testifies as a sworn witness.
Moritomo Gakuen produced three contracts regarding construction of the elementary school building that differ only in value and submitted them separately to the Osaka prefectural government; the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry; and another entity. Suspicions have been expressed that the school operator was trying to obtain subsidies illegally.
There remain unclear points about why the state-owned land was sold to the school operator at a price that was about ¥800 million lower than its appraised value.
Kagoike is called on to tell facts in his sworn testimony, thereby fulfilling his responsibility to cooperate in clarifying the cloud of suspicions surrounding the scandal.