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Editorial: As LDP shields Inada from debate, new Cabinet unlikely to boost Abe's ratings

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has refused to allow the attendance of former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada at out-of-session Diet discussions on a scandal involving the Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF).

The participation of Inada, who stands at the center of the scandal, is indispensable in exposing the truth about the cover-up of activity logs that were kept by GSDF personnel while they were on peacekeeping missions in South Sudan.

If the LDP is going to prevent Inada from appearing at the out-of-session deliberations, the party itself will be unable to avoid allegations of its involvement in the cover-up.

What's especially surprising is the reason that LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita gave for why Inada would not be present at discussions: "Inada took responsibility (for the scandal) in the gravest way possible, by resigning. I determined that a Cabinet minister who has resigned should not be summoned to an out-of-session Diet debate."

This is a straw-man fallacy.

Inada's resignation is one way the Cabinet took responsibility for the scandal. However, even though Inada may no longer be a Cabinet member, she is still a House of Representatives lawmaker, and as a member of the Diet, she remains a public figure, and has the responsibility to shed light on the truth.

In response to Inada's resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, "If the Diet seeks cooperation from the government, we will provide it." And yet, the ruling LDP appears to be extremely hesitant to create a precedent of summoning resigned Cabinet members to Diet discussions.

The LDP likely fears that if it were to comply with opposition parties' demands that Inada be summoned to out-of-session Diet debates, the same expectations could spill over into other former or soon-to-be former ministers involved in scandals, including the ministers whose portfolios include the Kake Educational Institution case, who are expected to be replaced in Abe's Aug. 3 Cabinet reshuffle.

In the past, former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka was summoned to the Diet as an unsworn witness to testify about her ministry while she held the Cabinet position. But it has become common practice for ministers in the midst of scandals to resign, and for the smoldering ashes of the scandals to quickly be stomped out and swept under the rug.

We seek a departure from such bad political habits and practices, and non-partisan cooperation toward uncovering the truth.

There are so many questions to be asked of Inada. A report released by the Inspector General's Office of Legal Compliance of the Defense Ministry concluded that the possibility that information related to the cover-up had been discussed during meetings between Inada and top GSDF officials could not be denied.

The meetings took place in February of this year, which was the same time the issue of GSDF logs was being discussed in the Diet. It would be unnatural for the existence -- or non-existence -- of the logs within the GSDF to go unaddressed at meetings taking place at that time. If the GSDF Chief of Staff did not report to Inada on the existence of the logs, it would have been Inada's responsibility to obtain precise information through various means, including demanding that the GSDF double check.

The Abe administration, whose approval ratings are plummeting, is planning on a Cabinet reshuffle Aug. 3. But without taking measures to erase lingering doubts, it seems unlikely the government will regain the public's trust.

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