Why, we must ask, are Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling parties continuing to refuse to clarify what went on with Kake Educational Institution, the private school operator headed by close Abe friend Kotaro Kake?
It has been nearly two weeks since alleged Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology documents emerged that mentioned the prime minister's "will" in regard to the approval of Kake Educational Institution plans for a new veterinary school in Ehime Prefecture. Abe has, however, claimed he has nothing to do with the approval, telling the Diet on multiple occasions that appropriate procedures were taken based on laws and ordinances. There was absolutely no pressure applied."
Former education ministry Vice Minister Kihei Maekawa held a news conference last week to declare that the documents were genuine, though the ministry itself has stated that an internal probe had turned up no evidence of their existence. Meanwhile, ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita refused opposition demands to summon Maekawa to the Diet to testify under oath, saying the Kake affair "has nothing to do with the true essence of politics."
In sum, the powers that be appear in a great rush to declare this issue dead and buried -- an attitude that itself invites plenty of questions.
Maekawa has also disclosed that Abe aide Hiroto Izumi summoned him in autumn last year to the prime minister's office to demand that Kake's vet school plans be approved quicky.
So, was the Kake application procedure fast-tracked because the institution's director is a close friend of the prime minister? Did Abe's "will" actually play a part in the process? Or did the Cabinet Office and other agencies act based on what they guessed the prime minister would want? And finally, was the administrative process "warped" as Maekawa says?
Surely the matter is relevant to the "true essence of politics" that must be fair. Leaving aside that we have yet to get a straight answer to any of the questions above, Abe has gone so far as to say that even asking them is stirring up an "arbitrary controversy."
Administrative documents are, in the end, intended as a record of whether government processes have been carried out fairly.
The prime minister and his circle are likely worried that admitting the education ministry documents are genuine will undermine all the explanations they have given thus far on the Kake issue. Surely we are well past the point where the papers can be dismissed as "anonymous objectionable documents." Nevertheless, officials continue to point at them and insist they do not exist. Is this not in itself the warping of government administration?
Prime Minister Abe has characterized the new Kake vet school as a meaningful blow for deregulation and breaking up vested interests -- two of the stated aims of national strategic special economic zones. Looking at the evidence and deciding if the decision to approve the school was right or not should be the next issue addressed.
If the approval process was in fact all above-board, then there should be no problem with requesting everyone involved to give testimony before the Diet. Maekawa has already said he would be happy to respond to a summons, though we would also need to hear from Abe aide Izumi. It is also necessary for Abe to attend the House of Representatives Budget Committee for intense deliberations on the issue, so we can hear everything he has to say.