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Editorial: Summon deputy Cabinet secretary to Japan Diet over science council rejections

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has continued to give vague statements in the Diet regarding his refusal to appoint six of 105 nominated members to the Science Council of Japan.

    Why didn't he appoint the six? On this crucial point, the prime minister has repeatedly stated that he will "refrain from answering as it is a personnel matter."

    Meanwhile, Suga revealed that he received a report in advance from Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita, a top administrative official, that the six nominees would be excluded from the council.

    Up until now, the prime minister has explained that he didn't see the full list of 105 members recommended for appointment by the science council. It has additionally emerged that Sugita previously intervened in the personnel appointments of the Science Council of Japan from the time of the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    Considering this, it is only natural that Sugita be asked to provide an explanation in the Diet on the background of and procedures behind the decision not to appoint the scholars.

    Yet Suga's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is refusing requests from opposition parties to summon Sugita to the Diet as an unsworn witness. What does the party fear? It's hard to comprehend the administration's stance.

    Just like the prime minister, the LDP is keen to discuss revisions to the organization of the science council. But why did Suga refuse to appoint the six? Surely it was because they had opposed government policy in the past. Unless this point is cleared up, Diet members will not be able to proceed to the next discussion.

    Regarding the appointment refusal, Suga has stressed, "It was my decision." But to our surprise, he indifferently stated that he didn't know the names of five of the six people who were rejected, and said he hadn't read their writings.

    Suga says he won't talk about individual personnel matters, but previously when recalling a section head in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Suga penned a document stating the reason for the move.

    When the opposition pointed out the inconsistency, the prime minister said, "This is completely differing from my right to make appointments this time." But he was unable to explain how it was different, merely resulting in further vagueness.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato abruptly expressed a standard for the decision, saying Suga was able to refuse "if the responsibility toward the public or the Diet could not be pursued." However, when asked "if the responsibility toward the public cannot be pursued if the six scholars are appointed," no explanations were given yet again due to "personnel matters."

    It ended with the opposition parties criticizing the statements as "incoherent."

    For a long time, Suga has stated that his creed for what he does is that "it is only natural for the public." In order for the Diet to perform its role, then, it should be "only natural" to call Sugita to the Diet to provide an explanation.

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