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Lower house speaker requests rare Diet debate on future ministry immigration orders

Speaker of the House of Representatives Tadamori Oshima looks over the lower house plenary session as the voting for the adoption of a bill to revise the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act proceeds at the National Diet in Tokyo, on Nov. 27, 2018. (Mainichi/Koichi Tezuka)

TOKYO -- House of Representative Speaker Tadamori Oshima made a rare move on Nov. 27 regarding immigration law revisions passed that day, calling on the heads of the ruling bloc's Diet affairs committees to deliberate on relevant ministry orders to be drafted before the revised law goes into effect in April 2019.

Though this discussion would take place in the lower house Judicial Affairs Committee after the bill's passage, it was effectively a conciliatory gesture to the opposition parties. The speaker had appeared to be in a state of crisis after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition forced the bill through the chamber despite strong criticism.

"I will now call the ruling parties and convey to them that an environment should be created such that the whole picture (of the new law), including ministry orders, can be questioned in the Judicial Affairs Committee," Oshima told the Diet affairs committee chairs of the six opposition parties on the evening of Nov. 27 in the speaker's chamber.

Soon after, Oshima invited LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Hiroshi Moriyama and his Komeito counterpart Yosuke Takagi to his office and passed on the massage. The two responded by saying that they would "firmly accept the request and convey it to the administration."

The lower house Judicial Affairs Committee, which met to debate the proposed revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act four times, was convened under the authority of chair Yasuhiro Hanashi of the LDP. For Diet standing committees like the judicial panel, there are days set aside specifically for questioning a bill. The judicial committee is supposed to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, but two out of the four meetings were not held on one of these specified days.

The opposition parties decried the handling of the proceedings, saying that it went against the precedent of allowing time to focus their questions based on Diet testimony, and that it was rushed because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was leaving on a foreign trip from Nov. 29.

"There are no examples in postwar history of forcing the adoption of a bill in order to match the diplomatic schedule (of the prime minister). It is a reckless action that makes a mockery of the Diet," said Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii.

Speaker Oshima also asked for an in-person report from Hanashi. During their meeting, Oshima also questioned why Hanashi had carried out deliberations on the bill on days outside of those designated for committee discussions, an individual from the opposition disclosed.

After hearing Oshima's rare request, opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Kiyomi Tsujimoto told reporters, "The speaker must have also felt a sense of crisis. I can acknowledge the value of his unusual proposal."

Following Oshima's request, the opposition parties decided against submitting a bill asking for the resignation of House of Representatives Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration Sanae Takaichi of the LDP.

In July this year, Oshima made a rare announcement of his "opinions" about the ordinary session of the Diet. He called the Ministry of Finance's altering of official documents over a land sale an issue that "shakes the core of democratic administrative oversight." He also urged the government to reflect on the scandal, saying, "Receiving correct information from the administrative branch in a timely and proper manner is a major principle (of democracy)."

During the current extraordinary session of the Diet, Oshima disclosed his dissatisfaction to those around him over errors in the results of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice concerning technical intern trainees who have disappeared from their jobs. The data was discussed in the Diet in connection with the immigration law revisions.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka and Yusuke Tanabe, Political News Department)

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