National / Politics

Abe denies same-day shredding of blossom party guest list is linked to opposition disclosure request

Kyodo, JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday told the Upper House that the shredding of the guest list for this year’s state cherry blossom-viewing party was previously planned and had nothing to do with the disclosure request filed by an opposition lawmaker the same day.

He also said it is impossible to recover the digital version of the list, but added the government will review the retaining period for documents related to the annual parties.

The guest list for this year’s party on Apr. 13 was shredded on May 9 — the same day an opposition party lawmaker requested the disclosure of documents related to the event.

Abe, who became the nation’s longest-serving prime minister last month, began facing allegations in October that he uses the parties for his own benefit by inviting his own supporters.

The taxpayer-funded event was started in 1952 to honor people for their accomplishments in politics, business, arts, culture, entertainment, sports and other areas.

Just last month it was revealed that the Cabinet Office, which was responsible for compiling the guest list based on recommendations from ministries, set an internal rule in late October — around the time opposition parties began criticizing the event — that said documents related to issuing invitations to government events shall be kept for less than a year.

Until March 2018, however, there was a rule regarding guest lists for government events that said they should be retained for one year. That rule was then revised in April to say the guest recommendations for the events shall be kept for less than a year.

Tetsuo Saito, secretary-general of Komeito, the junior partner in the LDP-led ruling coalition, said on a televised debate program Sunday that Abe’s administration should avoid becoming slack or arrogant from its long time on office.

On the TV program, Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, demanded that the budget committees in both Diet chambers meet to give Abe a chance to provide a clear explanation about the parties. Two other senior opposition officials backed Fukuyama.

But Inada effectively rejected the request, saying explanations had already been given outside the budget committees by Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.