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Japan ministry's report on Sri Lankan woman's death excluded doctor's note as 'nonfactual'

The Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, where Sri Lankan national Wishma Sandamali died while in detention, is seen in Minato Ward, Nagoya, on March 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

TOKYO -- Differences in the account of the death of a 33-year-old Sri Lankan woman in detention at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau have been explained as down to a doctor's records being "nonfactual" during a Diet panel board meeting on May 13, leading to accusations from opposition lawmakers that the truth is being twisted.

    Wishma Sandamali died on March 6 while being kept in detention at the Nagoya immigration bureau. Foreign nationals still in Japan after the expiry of their allocated period of stay can be held indefinitely at government facilities until they return to their home countries.

    At a House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs' board meeting, the Justice Ministry explained that while Sandamali's medical records were obtained before an interim report on her death was created, the regional immigration services bureau responded that the "doctor's records were nonfactual." As a result, the ministry said, the report it filed contained differing information. An opposition politician criticized the revelations strongly, saying, "The facts of the case are being distorted."

    According to Takeshi Shina, a member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who was present at the meeting, the Justice Ministry recognized that, before it produced its report, it had obtained medical records on a stomach endoscopy she received at a hospital outside the detention center.

    The records show instructions from a doctor reading: "If (medicine) cannot be administered orally, she should receive an IV drip and be hospitalized." When the Ministry of Justice made inquiries with the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau, it was told that they "weren't the facts." The ministry said it therefore stated in the report that "there were no instructions from a doctor to administer an IV drip or hospitalize her."

    In the May 13 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun, it reported that the medical records for Sandamali it had obtained did not match the content of the immigration bureau's report.

    (Japanese original by Kenta Miyahara, Political News Department)

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