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2010年4月28日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 27
EDITORIAL: Hatoyama in the clear.

A prosecution inquest committee, charged with examining the decision of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office not to indict Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama over falsified political fund reports by his fund management organization, concluded Monday that the right action had been taken.
But if we were to sum up the inquest committee's thinking, it would go something like this: "The prosecutors' decision was appropriate in terms of the law and the evidence obtained, but it was not something the public at large could readily accept."

Hatoyama's former state-paid aide, who was found guilty last week of falsifying political fund reports, had been in charge of managing and reporting Hatoyama's political funds. Hatoyama himself had no knowledge of the falsification and there was insufficient evidence to justify indicting the prime minister, the committee concluded.

However, the panel did question Hatoyama's statement that he had no idea his mother was funneling 15 million yen ($160,000) a month to him. "This is unthinkable for any average citizen," the panel noted.

And touching on the fact that prosecutors did not question the prime minister directly, the panel observed, "Quite a few (of the) members raised questions about the content of (the prime minister's) written statement (submitted to prosecutors), which only gave his side of the story."

Hatoyama has reiterated in the Diet that he had no knowledge of the money coming from his mother. He even said that, should evidence to the contrary ever come to light, he would feel obliged to resign from the Diet.

But in an opinion poll conducted soon afterward, more than 70 percent of respondents said they were "not convinced" by the prime minister's explanation. The prosecution inquest committee's comments were only to be expected.

We urge Hatoyama to reflect on the bleak reality that no matter how many times he may try to explain himself, he is not going to be believed by the people.

He has simply got to change his ways if he wants to be believed. For instance, he should comply with the opposition camp's demand that his former aide and others testify in the Diet as a sworn witness. And if necessary, he should also ask his mother and senior officials of the Hatoyama family's asset management company to testify publicly.

Without making such sincere and probably painful efforts, it would be difficult for Hatoyama to recover his credibility.

When a politician's accountant is found to have falsified a fund report, the current Political Fund Control Law provides that the politician is to be held responsible if he or she "failed to pay due attention" to both the "appointment" and "supervision" of the accountant.

On this issue, the committee pointed out the necessity of amending the law, noting, "It goes against society's common sense to exempt a politician from criminal responsibility so long as the politician appointed (the accountant) appropriately, even if he or she failed to supervise the accountant properly."

In fact, this provision saved former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto from prosecution in 2004 after it was revealed that his Liberal Democratic Party faction had falsified a political fund report to conceal a 100-million-yen donation it had received.

It may be impractical to seek unlimited responsibility of politicians for supervising their accountants. But it is also perfectly natural for the public at large to sense the injustice of punishing only the accountant and not holding the politician accountable. Along with banning corporate and group donations, we want the ruling and opposition parties to hold thorough suprapartisan discussions on the issue. We expect the prime minister to lead the way.

The prosecution inquest committee's decision spells the end of investigations into Hatoyama's political fund scandal. But the prime minister cannot escape political responsibility.


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