Confusion is spreading over whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Kotaro Kake, director of Kake Educational Institution, over the organization's establishment of a veterinary school.
Documents held by the Ehime Prefectural Government record a meeting having taken place between the prime minister and Kake on Feb. 25, 2015. The documents quote Abe as saying on this occasion that the veterinary school plan was "good."
Now, however, the institution has suddenly stated, "The person in charge at the time referred to a meeting between the prime minister and the director that never actually happened, and passed on mistaken information to the prefectural and (Imabari) municipal governments."
The day the Ehime Prefectural Government submitted the documents to the Diet, the educational institution merely stated, "The director never met with the prime minister in February 2015." Why did it not speak up from the outset? Its explanations are unnatural, and its comments became a point of focus during intensive deliberations in the budget committees of both houses of the Diet on May 29.
If Kake Educational Institution's explanation is true, it would mean the organization was trying to influence the prefectural and municipal governments by making it appear through a fictitious report that it had the prime minister's backing.
In actual fact, Tadao Yanase, then executive secretary to Prime Minister Abe, met with officials of the prefectural and municipal governments following the report of the meeting, and procedures relating to a national strategic special zone, where the veterinary school was eventually set up, went ahead. The latest findings present a serious problem casting doubt on the appropriateness of the process.
The prefectural government documents state that when the institution reported the meeting to the prefecture, it also requested financial support. This spring, the prefectural and municipal governments decided to provide about 9.3 billion yen in subsidies.
What is more incomprehensible is the lack of any protest from the prime minister. Up until now, Abe has repeatedly stated, "Director Kake is a friend of mine, but he never used my position in an attempt to accomplish anything."
Whether or not there was a meeting, Kake Educational Institution has admitted that it made the report to the prefectural and municipal governments. This has raised suspicions that the institution attempted to use Kake's relations with the prime minister to turn the establishment of the veterinary school into a reality.
Under normal circumstances, one would expect the prime minister to be angry at the educational institution. During the intensive deliberations on May 28, the opposition pointed this out, but Abe dodged the subject, saying, "I'm always calm."
The educational institution, moreover, should have apologized directly to the prefectural and municipal governments, but it merely faxed messages to news organizations and did not respond to requests for news coverage. It did not present any grounds for denying a meeting with the prime minister.
If Kake does not speak the truth in the Diet or another public forum, then the suspicions will continue.