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Editorial: PM must explain why scholars weren't appointed to Japan's science council

New criticism has erupted over a statement Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made in connection with the refusal to appoint six of 105 recommended scholars to the Science Council of Japan.

    Suga stated that the documents on his final decision contained the names of 99 candidates, telling the Mainichi Shimbun and other news organizations that he did not see the full list of 105 recommended candidates including the six who were rejected. Did he want to say that he was not the one who made the decision to eliminate the six, and that the list contained only 99 names from the outset?

    It is true that the decision document bearing the prime minister's seal contains 99 names. But the Science Council of Japan submitted a list containing 105 names to the Cabinet Office.

    If the prime minister did not see the list of recommended candidates from the council, then this would conflict with his statement that he made his decision on the council appointments "from the perspective of ensuring activities with a comprehensive, aerial view."

    Suga played a central role in the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who began to intervene in the personnel affairs of the science council. It would be strange if this issue was not passed down to Suga from Abe.

    So, who exactly made the decision not to appoint the six scholars?

    Japan's law on the science council states that the council's members "shall be appointed by the prime minister based on recommendations by the council." The only one with authority to make the appointments is the prime minister.

    If the Cabinet Office or the Cabinet Secretariat deleted the names of the six before they reached Suga, then it would be infringing on the right of the science council to select candidate members. And if the prime minister made appointments that were not based on the recommendations by the council, then there is a possibility he could be violating the law on the science council.

    On Oct. 12, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato explained that the full list of 105 names was attached to the decision document as reference material, but the prime minister probably meant that he hadn't looked at it closely.

    But can Suga make assessments on whether "balanced activities over a wide sphere," as he stated, can be achieved without seeing the detailed data?

    Kato has indicated that the prime minister received an explanation about how to consider the appointments before the decision was reached, so there is no problem there. But if that's the case, what kind of explanation did he receive on how to deal with the issue?

    All the government has done is make its explanations fit together, while questions about its move have cropped up one after the other.

    The nucleus of the issue is, why didn't the prime minister appoint the six recommended members? What reasons led to that decision, and when? Suga has a responsibility to provide an explanation to the Japanese public.

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