Kumamoto Municipal Assembly kicks female member out for sucking on cough drop during session

Kyodo

Should cough drops be allowed or not?

That is the question that took center stage in the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly on Friday, forcing it to suspend deliberation for about eight hours.

Yuka Ogata, 43, an assembly member who attracted attention last year for bringing her newborn son to the assembly, was criticized by fellow colleagues again when she spoke at the podium with a cough drop in her mouth.

When Ogata refused to apologize, the assembly passed a disciplinary motion kicking her out of the plenary session. All assembly members except Ogata voted for the motion.

“I have not been well for the past several days and decided to take cough drops so that I would not trouble others with my coughing,” Ogata said. “It’s regrettable that I’ve been forced to leave the room without being given the opportunity to explain myself.”

According to the office of the city assembly, there is no policy on eating and drinking while inside the assembly. But critical assembly members claimed she violated the clause stipulating members need to retain the integrity of the assembly.

Her action triggered mixed reactions.

“It’s unacceptable for a responsible adult to ask questions with (cough) drops in their mouth,” Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi said. “She needs to admit her fault.”

A 76-year-old woman who was listening to the assembly session, meanwhile, said: “If it’s a private company, there are times when people coughing or who are suffering from a sore throat take cough drops when they speak in front of other people. I’m not sure if it’s worth suspending the deliberation.”

Ogata received a verbal reprimand for delaying assembly proceedings by bringing her 7-month-old son to the assembly session last November.