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Editorial: Lies, cover-ups over Moritomo, SDF log scandals a huge crime by Abe gov't

Both the Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry released on May 23 a trove of documents: the former the records of negotiations with nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen on the price of state-owned land, which the ministry had previously claimed no longer existed, and the latter the results of a probe into what were said to be no longer extant daily logs that had been kept by Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) troops during their dispatch to Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

The simultaneous release of such a massive volume of paperwork is evidence that the government has no intention of gaining the public's understanding. Putting out all the documents is intended to reduce media reports on individual issues, and distract the public from the two scandals.

One could say that the latest moves by the government have shown that it does not understand what public records are for.

Last year, then director-general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau Nobuhisa Sagawa repeatedly told the Diet that records of negotiations with Moritomo Gakuen had been discarded.

But when it was reported that the records still existed, the Diet demanded an investigation. In response, the Finance Ministry explained that it had learned that personal memos kept by individual ministry staff existed, and released those documents.

Not only did the Finance Ministry take part in the falsification of official documents regarding the Moritomo land deal, it has also come to light that the ministry had been disposing of existing negotiation records to maintain consistency with Sagawa's testimony in the Diet at the same time it was doctoring documents. We still don't know who ordered such unlawful action -- and that calls for further investigation.

The approximately 4,000 pages of documents that the Finance Ministry submitted to the Diet include negotiation records and official documents prior to their falsification, as well as a memo of the Kinki Local Finance Bureau's consultation with ministry headquarters in Tokyo about the land deal.

The memo included a description of an inquiry in fall 2015 from Saeko Tani -- a government staffer who was then assigned to assist first lady Akie Abe -- to a division within the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau about the possibility of giving preferential treatment to Moritomo Gakuen in the lease of state-owned land.

The only natural next step is for lawmakers to go through the newly released documents with a fine-tooth comb in order to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Meanwhile, as a result of a probe into logs kept by SDF troops deployed to Iraq, which the Defense Ministry had initially claimed did not exist, the ministry concluded that there had not been a "systematic" cover-up, but rather that the relevant information had been sequestered by individual officials lacking necessary awareness. Even if that is the case, there is still a systematic problem in that the existence of the logs remained hidden and their release was delayed for so long due to individuals lacking awareness within the ministry.

If both the finance and defense ministries had been forthcoming with their information from the very beginning, Diet deliberations would have proceeded differently. There is also a chance that public opinion would have been different. The Abe administration bears a huge responsibility for all the lies and cover-ups.

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