We probably should have known. During intensive deliberations in the budget committees of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, little progress was made in getting to the bottom of the alleged cronyism scandal surrounding Kake Educational Institution's vet school.
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This is due to the ruling coalition's refusal to summon Tokihiro Nakamura, the governor of Ehime Prefecture, where the vet school is located, to the Diet as a witness. Nakamura slammed the testimony given to the Diet by former executive secretary to Prime Minister Abe Tadao Yanase on May 10 as having contradictions, saying that, "Others are becoming embroiled in (his) lies."
Gov. Nakamura argues that a memo kept by a prefectural official who met with Yanase to discuss the Kake school is highly credible. The record indicates that Yanase called the establishment of the Kake vet school in the Ehime Prefecture city of Imabari a "matter concerning the prime minister," and provided prefectural officials and others present at the meeting with specific advice on how to successfully bring the school to Imabari; the memo leads us to the essence of questions that have yet to be answered. Gov. Nakamura even released a copy of Yanase's then business card, with the date that it was received by Ehime prefectural officials -- April 2, 2015 -- stamped on it.
Meanwhile, Yanase finally acknowledged that he probably met with Ehime government officials at a meeting where others were present, but denied that he said anything about the Kake vet school being a "matter concerning the prime minister." His testimony regarding what he spoke about, and with whom, remained vague.
The Diet is a place where such discrepancies are meant to be investigated. Gov. Nakamura has expressed his willingness to appear in front of the Diet. To actively bring in former Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato -- who was a strong advocate for establishing the vet school in Imabari and argues that procedures that were followed in setting up the school were appropriate -- to testify in the Diet, while refusing to summon incumbent Gov. Nakamura as a witness shows an absolute lack of fairness. Such action makes us even more suspicious that the ruling coalition is afraid that the credibility of Yanase's testimony will burst open at the seams if Gov. Nakamura were to testify.
Prime Minister Abe virtually spent all of the intensive deliberations in the two chambers' respective budget committees repeating that Yanase's meeting with parties involved in the Kake vet school's establishment did not affect procedures to make that a reality, and that he himself did not give any instructions on how the case should be handled.
Is it true that Yanase, then an executive secretary to Abe, did not report back to the prime minister about his meeting with officials from Kake Educational Institution, the Ehime Prefectural Government and the Imabari Municipal Government? Is it true that Abe did not know about the plans made by Kake Educational Institution -- run by his close friend, Kotaro Kake -- to set up a veterinary school in Imabari until January of last year? We cannot say that our questions have been answered.
During Diet deliberations, the prime minister reiterated that the Kake vet school received so many applications that it was able to accept only one in every 20 applicants -- as if the school's popularity attests to the righteousness of the process through which the school was founded.
It goes without saying, however, that what is being called into question is not whether it was good or bad that the school was established. Rather, the problem is whether Kake Educational Institution was selected from the outset as the operator of a vet school in Imabari because of Abe's friendship with the school operator's chairman. It appears to us that Prime Minister Abe is aware of what is actually being asked, but is deliberately evading it.
We must not allow the probe into the scandal to regress. The facts must be confirmed. Prime Minister Abe, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, could easily make the summoning of Gov. Nakamura to testify in the Diet a reality if he chose to do so.