Four opposition parties boycotted Diet deliberations Thursday after senior leaders of the ruling bloc rejected claims they forced the Defense Agency to withhold a full report on the information disclosure scandal.
As the impasse continued, a senior Liberal Democratic Party member of the Upper House said there is little possibility for the government package of emergency contingency bills to clear the Diet during the current session.
Although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the ruling camp are seeking to substantially extend the session beyond its scheduled June 19 close, there is growing pessimism that time is running out for the defense bills, which are still being deliberated in the Lower House.
Secretaries general of the LDP-led coalition parties met in the afternoon with their opposition counterparts to give a detailed explanation of what happened when Defense agency officials visited them Tuesday prior to releasing a report on the scandal.
Agency officials are accused of compiling irrelevant personal data on individuals who sought disclosure of agency information.
Taku Yamasaki, Secretary General of the LDP, reiterated that he “offered his opinion” to agency officials not to publicly release the agency’s full 38-page report on the issue and to keep it only as “background material” for when opposition parties ask questions in future Diet deliberations.
The agency initially released a four-page summary report to the media, only to provide the full report several hours later. The summary did not include sections in which the agency effectively admits attempts at a coverup.
Naoto Kan, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, claimed that Yamasaki’s explanation is merely an excuse. He demanded an apology and urged the lawmaker to take responsibility for his action.
“Remarks made by senior members of the ruling camp have significant meaning to agency officials,” Kan told reporters after the meeting. “But (Yamasaki) is totally unaware (of the impact of his remark).”
The DPJ, the Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Japanese Communist Party agreed to continue boycotting Diet deliberations until the ruling bloc admits its fault in the matter.
“It is regrettable,” Koizumi told reporters earlier in the day in response to the opposition boycott. “We have a stew of issues to debate (in the Diet).”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said: “It is difficult to understand why the opposition camp is holding up the Diet. If they have found any problems, they should address them through parliamentary deliberation.”
On Wednesday, the opposition groups demanded that a third party reinvestigate the Defense Agency scandal, calling the agency report “untrustworthy.” Although the ruling coalition parties refused to launch a reinvestigation, they offered to explain what happened in the Tuesday meeting.
Meanwhile, members of the ruling coalition on the House of Representatives health and welfare committee agreed to vote on a revised health insurance system bill Friday despite the opposition boycott.
If the ruling parties vote on the bill without the opposition’s consent, the move is likely to stiffen the opposition’s stance, further clouding the fate of other government bills.
Tanaka snubs demand
Former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka on Thursday rejected a demand by a ruling Liberal Democratic Party ethics panel to submit additional files containing information on her aides’ government-paid salaries.
Tanaka is facing allegations that she misused the funds.
She said in a letter that she is refusing to submit the files to the LDP’s Party Ethics Committee, citing concerns over confidentiality.
Tanaka was referring to the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho’s latest edition, which went on sale Thursday containing the “full text” of a document she submitted to the panel Tuesday.
During a meeting of the panel Tuesday, Tanaka denied allegations that she pocketed her aides’ salaries. She also presented salary statements issued to one of her secretaries in 1997.
The panel had asked her to turn in by noon Thursday files on the salaries of all her government-paid secretaries during the five years since she was elected to the House of Representatives in 1993.
The weekly magazines Shukan Shincho and Shukan Bunshun reported in April that Tanaka had misused the public money.
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