Tokyo, Jan. 22 (Jiji Press)–Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his eagerness on Wednesday to go ahead with the government’s plan to introduce casino-featuring integrated resorts, or IRs, in Japan, despite a bribery scandal involving a former senior official.
At the House of Representatives plenary meeting, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano questioned Abe about the arrest last month of Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto, former state minister of the Cabinet Office in charge of the IR policy, on bribery charges.
The leader of the main opposition party demanded that the government drop its IR introduction plan.
Abe said he takes the former state minister’s arrest seriously, adding, however, that the government will “proceed sincerely” with the plan, “fully reflecting discussions” in the newly established casino management committee, as well as the Diet, Japan’s parliament.
Edano also brought up publicly funded annual cherry blossom-viewing parties that many supporters of Abe, among celebrity and other guests, have attended in recent years.
“What’s the essential difference between that and vote buying, a violation of the public offices election law?” he said.
Edano criticized the government for irregularities in handling the party’s guest lists, as well as for submitting some of the guest lists to the Diet after modifying them.
“Heavy punishments should be imposed on the officials involved, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga,” he stressed.
In response, Abe said only that Suga has instructed the Cabinet Office to take thorough measures to prevent such irregularities from occurring again.
Edano asked Abe for a reason why the prime minister has not shown a 5,000-yen receipt for a dinner held at a Tokyo hotel on the eve of a cherry blossom-viewing party last April.
Abe said his office had made an inquiry at the hotel over the receipt, but the hotel declined to “give out documents that will be publicly shown” over concerns that its business secrets would be affected.
Abe declined Edano’s request for a reinvestigation into whether the guest lists exist, saying that the disposals of the lists have been confirmed.
Computer logs linked to the elimination of guest lists data will not be disclosed either, because doing this “could help hackers,” Abe said.
Edano also claimed that Abe should be held responsible as the appointer of former trade minister Isshu Sugawara and former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who both resigned last autumn over money scandals.
“Each of us should straighten up,” Abe replied, promising to explain as much as possible.
Over the recent sending of Self-Defense Forces troops to the Middle East, Edano objected to the government basing the dispatch on a Defense Ministry establishment law provision for SDF research activities.
Furthermore, Edano urged the government to rethink the ongoing project to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma air base, currently in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko coastal area in Nago, another Okinawa city.
“The premise that (the base’s relocation to Henoko) is the only solution (to removing the danger of the Futenma base) is no longer valid,” Edano said.
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, questioned the prime minister about debates on constitutional amendments.
Abe expressed hopes that ruling and opposition party lawmakers will hold candid debates at the Commission on the Constitution in both chambers of the Diet.
Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, urged Abe to drop a plan to give the SDF legal grounds by amending the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, as stipulated under the LDP’s amendment draft. The plan is “logically inconsistent,” he said.
In response, Abe asked Tamaki to submit a counterproposal to the commission if there is any problem.