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Japan lawmaker with cerebral palsy upset over exclusion from cross-party virus talks

Eiko Kimura of the Reiwa Shinsengumi party is seen in this file photo at the Members' Office Building of the House of Councillors in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 6, 2020. (Mainichi/Taro Fujii)

TOKYO -- A lawmaker at the House of Councillors who has cerebral palsy expressed her frustration at being left out of a cross-party liaison council meeting on the novel coronavirus on March 19.

"I don't know the reason for it. It amounts to discrimination of people with disabilities," the lawmaker, Eiko Kimura, told reporters at a news conference in the National Diet.

Kimura is one of two members of the minor opposition Reiwa Shinsengumi party who were elected in the July 2019 upper house election. Both she and fellow party member Yasuhiko Funago live with severe disabilities.

At the press conference, Kimura said she conveyed to the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) that she wished to attend the meeting of the liaison council, which includes the government, ruling and opposition parties, but that she was refused and asked to "write down her demands (to the government)."

"As a person with disabilities who, if infected, is at greater risk of developing a serious disease, I want to be able to give my opinion on plans to defend disabled people from the coronavirus," she said, emphasizing her desire to be included by the major political parties.

In response to her comments, Jun Azumi, the CDP's Diet affairs chief, said to reporters, "We communicated the intentions of the Reiwa Shinsengumi party to the Liberal Democratic Party, but were told 'We have continued up till now to hold talks between the established parties, and so adding the Reiwa party would be difficult.'"

On the first day the liaison committee met, both the Reiwa Shinsengumi party and the NHK Kara Kokumin Wo Mamoru To (the party to protect the people from NHK), which has two members in the National Diet, were excluded from discussions.

(Japanese original by Shinya Hamanaka, Political News Department)

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