Government had plants in five town meetings on education bill

by Hiroko Nakata

The Cabinet Office admitted Thursday that it and the education ministry planted people at five out of eight town meetings on education reform to give government-authored statements supporting the controversial bill to revise the education law.

The Cabinet Office issued a report on its investigation into tampering with the town meetings, which were started in 2001 and were set up by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to improve communication between the government and the public.

The five town meetings were held between Dec. 13, 2003, and September in Gifu, Wakayama, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Beppu, Oita Prefecture and Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. The Cabinet Office revealed the Hachinohe incident Tuesday.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry asked local boards of education to put people in the meetings to give remarks from a list of questions and statements supplied by the ministry, hoping the comments would influence the audience to support the government-sponsored bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education.

One of the contentious points in the bill, which is expected to clear the House of Representatives next week, is that it would change the law to say that students should be instilled with patriotism.

The education ministry compiled a list of remarks for the participants to use at the meetings to show they supported the government-sponsored bill.

Between one and four participants at each of the five meetings spoke using the list.

The report indicated that the government might have used the same tactics in some of the other 166 town meetings during Koizumi’s term in office, which was from April 2001 until this September.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki instructed the Cabinet Office to carefully investigate what happened at the 166 town meetings.

“Honestly, it is very regrettable,” said Shunichi Uchida, vice minister at the Cabinet Office.

Uchida would not say at what level of the Cabinet the decision was made to plant people in the meetings.