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Editorial: Ex-PM Abe should be questioned as sworn witness to unravel scandal

  • December 26, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe provided explanations to the Committee on Rules and Administration in both chambers of the Diet on Dec. 25 over allegations that his office illegally subsidized dinner functions held the night before cherry-blossom viewing events that he hosted as prime minister.

 

Abe said that a secretary subsidized the functions without him knowing, and that he fully believed the secretary’s explanation that no subsidies were provided when he gave statements in the Diet that differed from the facts.

But the suspicions against Abe have only deepened.

 

It is said that the money used to subsidize the functions came from “cash on hand” from Abe’s own deposits that he had entrusted to his office. The subsidies totaled about 7 million yen (approx. $67,600) over four years. It is incomprehensible that his secretary would make his own decision to use this money without bothering to report it to his boss.

 

Abe previously maintained that statements of expenses from the hotel that hosted the dinner functions had “not been issued.” Now he has switched his line to saying that those statements retained by the hotel can’t be publicly released because they are commercial secrets.

 

Meanwhile, the motive for the secretary failing to list the subsidized amounts in political funding reports has yet to come to light.

 

The problem goes beyond the scope of the pre-sakura party functions. The heart of the issue is that the cherry blossom-viewing parties, held at the taxpayer’s expense, became events where Abe appropriated authority for himself, as he is said to have invited hundreds of his local supporters.

 

When Abe was probed by the Committee on Rules and Administration on this issue, he merely referred to procedures for recommending people to be invited to the party, and remained tight-lipped on why such a large number of his supporters received invitations.

 

The panel session was held for Abe to provide explanations, after he said that he wanted to amend his statements. But just like when he was serving as prime minister, he failed to respond squarely to questions from the opposition parties, and used up time by talking at length about matters he had not been asked about.

 

In response to questions in which lawmakers asked Abe about the facts, he even evaded an answer at one point by stating, “I didn’t receive advance notice about that.” With such an attitude, doubts remain over whether he intends to fulfill his responsibility to provide proper explanations.

 

According to the House of Representatives’ Research Bureau, Abe made false statements in the Diet at least 118 times. If his fallacious statements were to go unchallenged, then verbal arguments in the Diet could not stand. Is he aware that this is a serious problem undermining the foundations of democracy?

 

Abe’s strained explanations give rise to new suspicions. As false testimony is the problem, it is necessary to question him as a sworn witness, where he could face perjury charges if he provided false statements, and uncover the truth.

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