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Science council membership leaning 'toward certain universities': Japan PM

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga underscored the need to reform the Science Council of Japan, saying its membership is weighted toward certain universities during his appearance in a TV show on Oct. 26.

    "There are an extremely small number of members from the private sector and the younger generation. It is also an objective fact that its membership is weighted toward certain universities," Suga said during a program on public broadcaster NHK.

    His remarks came amid public and opposition parties' criticism over his refusal to appoint six out of 105 scholars nominated as new members to the science council despite the body's recommendations. The council, established in 1949, is a representative organization of Japan's scientist community that makes policy recommendations independent from the government.

    "Someone has got to review the entire organization once again. I think it's about time to do that," Suga said, emphasizing the need to revamp the council.

    Suga continued, "If I appoint members to the council, they become public servants. The science council selected the 105 candidates and brought the list to me, and all that I was expected to do was to confirm them. The government needs to get involved and take responsibility." Suga then said, "I have said that I wouldn't follow precedents."

    The prime minister acknowledged that his rejection of the appointments was "a response I took after wavering," seeking understanding for his controversial decision. However, he once again declined to reveal the reason behind the refusal, saying, "There are things that can be explained and cannot be explained." He simply said, "It's not so much because I had specific reasons but because I thought about the council as a whole."

    (Japanese original by Shun Kawaguchi, Political News Department)

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