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PM's office overturned proposal on new members for Science Council of Japan: sources

Opposition party legislators take part in a hearing with Cabinet Office and the Cabinet Legislation Bureau staff regarding appointments to the Science Council of Japan, in the Diet on Oct. 2, 2020. (Mainichi/Ayumu Iwasaki)

TOKYO -- Regarding revelations that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga refused to appoint six scholars as new members of the Science Council of Japan, multiple government sources disclosed on Oct. 2 that the Cabinet Office had submitted an untouched list of 105 scholars recommended by the council -- including the rejected six -- to the prime minister's office.

    The finding suggests it was the prime minister's office that decided not to appoint the six in an extremely rare move.

    The council represents the Japanese scientific and scholarly community and makes policy recommendations independent from the government. The council recommends new members to its ranks, and the decision on appointments passes from the Secretariat of the Science Council of Japan within the Cabinet Office to the office's Personnel Division, and then to the prime minister's office, which has the final say.

    Regarding the recommendations of the six scholars who were not appointed, one government source quoted the Cabinet Office as saying, "The prime minister's office suddenly overturned them." The source added, "When it comes to selecting people, the Cabinet Office does not do background checks, and in this case, as usual, the office passed on the list of all recommended people, unchanged, to the prime minister's office."

    Another source related to the government commented, "In this case there is no one at the secretariat-level able to get directly involved in the matter, so there is no way they could provide an explanation in the Diet. They would probably end up saying, 'Ask the prime minister's office.'"

    In a hearing with opposition party legislators on Oct. 2, a Cabinet Office official stated, "The only document left regarding the decision is one on the 105 people who were recommended, and the final decision document saying that 99 would be appointed." The official did not say whether or not there was initially a document stating that all 105 would be appointed.

    (Japanese original by Hironori Takechi, Political News Department)

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