Japan's regional revitalization minister slapped with censure motion over Abe school scandal

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-13 19:16:39|Editor: Song Lifang
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TOKYO, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Japan's main opposition Democratic Party on Tuesday filed a censure motion against regional revitalization minister Kozo Yamamoto in connection with allegations of favoritism given by the government to a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to open a school in a deregulated zone.

Japan's education ministry last Friday said it would reinvestigate the existence of documents that may implicate Abe and other senior officials in approving Kake Educational Institution, run by a close friend of Abe's, opening a new veterinary school at a location highly deregulated by the government.

Kake Educational Institution, which operates a university where the new department would be opened and is chaired Abe's close friend Kotaro Kake, was selected for the project in a meeting held between the central and local governments in the special strategic zone in January.

Okayama University of Science was handpicked by the government to open the new veterinary medicine school in Ehime Prefecture, one of Japan's national strategic special economic zones, which has far more relaxed regulations to boost growth in the area, as part of Abe's overall growth strategy.

The local city assembly provided the land to the institution to build the new department for free and in addition they provided 9.6 billion yen (86.24 million U.S. dollars) as a subsidy for the school's construction costs.

It is the first time in 50 years the government has approved a plan to open a new veterinary department.

A former vice education minister at the beginning of the month released a statement backing up his previous assertions that senior government advisors had pressurized him to accelerate procedures to open up a new school with close links to Abe.

Kihei Maekawa said in a statement that last year in August an advisor to the Cabinet at the time visited his office and requested that he accelerate procedures for the opening of a new veterinary school.

Opposition parties have called for Maekawa, who has admitted to having knowledge of documents that could be potentially damaging to Abe, to be summoned to the Diet to give testimony under oath.

Maekawa has said that along with several other ministry officials, he is aware of the documents and said they were shared within the ministry.

The education ministry has said it is in the process of searching its internal files and questioning officials in connection to the allegation that documents exist showing that preferential treatment was given to a friend of Abe's to open the school.

The education ministry, after its initial two-day probe which was deemed wholly insufficient by both opposition parties and the public, said that the existence of the documents could not be found.

Along with Maekawa, the opposition camp believe that the education ministry had prepared a document stating that the Cabinet Office said that "Abe backs the plan" to open the new school.

The document also reportedly suggests that the education ministry was told by the Cabinet Office that the choice for the new department "was heard to have been the prime minister's wish."

The main opposition Democratic Party also maintains that one of the documents in question shows that negotiations had taken place between the ministry and the Cabinet Office regarding the set timeframe for opening the new department at the university.

As for the timing of the opening of the new department being scheduled for April 2018, one document reportedly states, "This is what the highest level of the prime minister's office has said."

Another document mentioned that opening the department at an early juncture was "in line with the prime minister's wishes."

Separately, a censure motion was also filed against Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda on Tuesday by the Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party over his mishandling of deliberations on a controversial conspiracy bill that if passed could give unprecedented powers to law enforcement officers to infringe on people's civil rights.