The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc and the opposition camp faced off again Wednesday over the contentious state secrets bill, even though it appears headed for passage by the Upper House before the Diet session ends Friday.
During the day’s debate between party leaders, LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the bill is vital for national security, while Banri Kaieda, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, attacked the proposed legislation as draconian.
“I can now say with certainty that the bill was created by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats to hide information,” Kaieda said.
Adamant about getting the bill into law, Abe promised that the government will set up an oversight committee to monitor the classification process in an apparent effort to ease public concerns and opposition criticism that the bill would give the government too much power in designating state secrets.
“We will emulate the ISCAP (Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel) in the U.S. and set up a similar oversight body within the Cabinet Office by the time the law takes effect,” Abe told the Upper House special committee on national security. “The entity would be in charge of monitoring the classification and declassification process and how the security clearance is conducted.”
His comments came as the opposition camp, including Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, which agreed to amendments to the bill in the Lower House, are loudly criticizing the lack of an independent classification monitoring process. Nippon Ishin said it might vote against the bill unless Abe provides an ironclad guarantee of the classification panel’s independence.
Abe also said the government will create an independent post to ensure that documents are disposed of properly as well as an information security council where experts would compile a set of rules for classification and declassification.
Yet the opposition lawmakers jeered Abe for failing to guarantee the complete independent nature of the oversight panel. According to his plan, vice ministers would play a central role in the panel, and the chief Cabinet secretary and deputy chief Cabinet secretary would also be members, possibly reducing its independence.
In its last-minute effort to gain support, the ruling bloc met Wednesday evening with Your Party and Nippon Ishin to narrow their differences over the nature of the oversight panel. They were likely to reach an agreement by Thursday.
Despite the intensifying opposition by the minority parties, which are enraged by what they say is the heavy-handed way the ruling bloc is forcing the bill through the Diet, the proposed legislation is set to be passed by Friday.
“There is no possibility (of extending the session),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “I think discussions are about ready to wrap up.”
Meanwhile the showdown between the ruling bloc and the opposition camp over how to steer Diet matters intensified.
Angered by the actions of the ruling parties, the opposition camp except for the Japanese Communist Party boycotted a public hearing on the secrecy bill in Saitama Prefecture. The opposition camp criticized the ruling bloc for forcibly setting the hearing only one day ahead of time and with little consultation.
The opposition camp even tried to delay the public hearing by slowing down the voting process in the Upper House plenary session, but to no avail. The Upper House president, from the LDP, made a motion to recess the plenary session so lawmakers could attend the hearing.
“I cannot help but think that the president of the house, who should be fair to all the parties, made a very unfair decision,” said Kazuya Shinba, head of the DPJ’s Upper House steering committee.
The ruling bloc was expected to reopen the plenary session in the evening after the public hearing, during which it was likely to submit a motion to sack the chairmen of the committee on Cabinet Office matters and the committee on economy, trade and industry, positions held by DPJ lawmakers.
The ruling bloc accused the DPJ chairs of delaying deliberation of a bill to create special economic zones and a bill to amend the anti-monopoly law. The special zone bill is a key component of Abe’s economic policies.