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Editorial: Abe administration must shed its complacency as Imamura resigns

  • April 27, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 7:24 p.m.
  • English Press

The reconstruction minister should stand shoulder to shoulder with victims of the March 2011 disaster and make every effort to revive the affected areas. Our only response to the minister’s comment, so devoid of awareness of his official responsibilities, was speechless astonishment.


Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura has resigned. This was to take responsibility for saying it was relatively “a good thing” that the Great East Japan Earthquake happened in the Tohoku region.


This remark, which deeply hurt the many people still struggling after the unprecedented natural disaster and ensuing nuclear accident, cannot be dismissed as a mere slip of the tongue. It raised doubts about Imamura’s qualification to serve as the person responsible for overseeing the administrative side of reconstruction efforts. His resignation was inevitable.


In November, Imamura said agricultural producers in Fukushima Prefecture “still need to make efforts” to help dispel harmful misconceptions about products grown in the prefecture. On April 4, he said people who voluntarily evacuated in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant did so “under their own responsibility.” Imamura later retracted that comment and apologized only days before making his latest gaffe.


Why did Imamura repeatedly make these imprudent comments?


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an apology for Imamura’s statement, saying: “It was a glaring comment that damages the trust of disaster-hit areas. The responsibility for appointing him lies with me as prime minister.”


If Imamura’s latest comment had not been dealt with, it could have raised questions about the Abe Cabinet’s attitude toward reconstruction of the affected areas. The Cabinet will need to make every possible effort to restore its readiness to function. The prime minister himself should exercise leadership.


Some lawmakers inept


Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives lawmaker elected from Fukushima Constituency No. 5, has been appointed Imamura’s successor as reconstruction minister. This is an appropriate selection, given that Yoshino served in roles including chairman of the lower house’s Special Committee on reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and is well informed on the actual situation in the affected region.


Almost all Diet deliberations were canceled due to the change in reconstruction minister. The vote on an amendment to the Law on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima, which centers on steps to promote the recovery of zones to which it will be difficult for residents to return, also was postponed. Providing support to disaster-hit areas, and rebuilding them, must not be held back.


We cannot overlook the fact that recently a string of Cabinet ministers have made controversial remarks or been embroiled in scandals. The Abe administration will inevitably be criticized for complacency at a time when the Liberal Democratic Party remains the sole dominant political party.


On April 16, with regard to using cultural assets to promote tourism, Kozo Yamamoto, the regional vitalization minister, said that museum curators “were the biggest cancer and must be wiped out.” Yamamoto later apologized. On April 18, Toshinao Nakagawa resigned as parliamentary vice minister of economy, trade and industry over an extramarital affair and later left the LDP.


In March, Shunsuke Mutai, a parliamentary vice minister for reconstruction, resigned for saying “the rubber boots industry probably made a lot of money,” after his inspection tour of an area struck by a typhoon last year.


The quality of LDP lower house lawmakers first elected during the party’s sweeping 2012 victory and now serving their second term is said to be low, and they are causing all sorts of trouble.


The prime minister must straighten up his administration and ensure every lawmaker stays on their toes and focuses on fulfilling their duties. Just as Abe himself has said, the only way to regain the public’s trust is by producing good results.

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