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Editorial: Probe into expanding Kake faculty scandal has just begun

  • June 16, 2017
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 1:50 p.m.
  • English Press

The education ministry’s fresh investigation into internal documents lifting the lid on the political scandal concerning the Kake Educational Institution’s plan to open a veterinary medicine faculty is only the beginning of serious efforts to find the truth.


Hirokazu Matsuno, the education minister, said on June 15 that the new inquiry has found 14 documents with the same or strikingly similar contents to the revealed one indicating the ministry came under political pressure to approve the institution’s plan quickly. The “original” document that was presented at the Diet, and reported in the media, cites remarks by Cabinet Office officials pressing for the rapid processing of the application by the school operator, referring to the “prime minister’s intent.”


The ministry’s failure to confirm the existence of such documents in the first probe last month is baffling. It is clearly easy to find e-mails between ministry officials concerning the documents. All that has to be done is to search documents in the computers used by officials involved.


Most people must have taken the ministry’s failure to ferret out the documents as a sign that there were reasons that deterred the ministry from taking such steps.


In the meantime, some top administration officials went so far as to take actions apparently aimed at silencing officials who could discuss the documents.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attacked Kihei Maekawa, a former administrative vice education minister, who first came forward to speak about the documents. Vice education minister Hiroyuki Yoshiie, speaking at the Diet, threatened to take disciplinary action against the whistle-blower who disclosed details of the document.


These administration officials have it all wrong. These officials, who have cut corners in the investigation and tried to conceal inconvenient facts, are the ones who deserve to be punished.


Isn’t the administration aware that its willingness to shamelessly claim that black is white is provoking a wave of public distrust of the government?


The education ministry’s re-investigation has only confirmed the existence of the documents. The ministry has not provided any information that can help determine whether or not the decision on the faculty plan was influenced by political pressure, the core question related to the scandal.


The crux of the matter is the implications of the passages in the document that suggest Cabinet Office officials conveyed the administration’s messages about the faculty plan to the ministry. The document quotes them as referring to the “intent of the prime minister” and saying, “This is something passed on from the highest levels of the prime minister’s office.”


Responding to the latest inquiry, the ministry officials involved reportedly said they didn’t know what these passages actually meant.


There is every reason to suspect that these officials find it difficult to tell the truth because of concerns about their future in the ministry.


There should be a further inquiry into the allegations by independent experts supported by the government’s assurance that the officials will not suffer any repercussions if they tell all the facts they know.


The Upper House Budget Committee will hold a special session on the matter on June 16. Hopefully, the proceedings will produce substantial new revelations about what really happened in addition, of course, to holding Suga and Matsuno accountable for their handling of the scandal.


No one would dispute the value of political initiatives to eliminate unreasonable regulations. But such efforts can be accepted by society only if they are made in a fair and impartial manner according to the established procedures.


Some facts have emerged to cast serious doubt over the fairness and impartiality of the process of approving the Kake faculty plan, including that a local government knew when the faculty would be opened before the central government announced the plan.


Moreover, the e-mails disclosed by the education ministry on June 15 have aroused suspicion that certain conditions for approving a new faculty plan effectively designed to prevent Kake’s rivals from applying were added at the instruction of Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda.


It is the Diet’s crucial mission to check and rectify the actions and positions of the Cabinet. The ruling as well as the opposition parties have a responsibility to carry out this mission.

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