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2011年10月 3日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 1
EDITORIAL: Diet panel must focus on disaster, not politics.

A law to establish a parliamentary panel to investigate the disastrous accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was enacted on Sept. 30.

It marks the first time that the Diet has put together such an investigative body, which is composed of private-sector experts.

Under the check-and-balance system of separation of powers, it is one of the principal jobs of the legislature to monitor the administrative body of government.

The law has set the stage for the Diet to do that in regards to the government's response to the nuclear disaster.

The government has already set up its own inquiry panel to look into the accident. Headed by Yotaro Hatamura, a University of Tokyo professor emeritus and expert in analyzing system failures, the government panel is expected to publish an interim report in December.

Even so, the government's investigative committee has no legally established authority.

It has already questioned 275 people as part of its inquiry, but the questioning has had to be conducted through interviews behind closed doors instead of at public hearings in order to gain the cooperation of those testifying.

The Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties have questioned whether a committee set up by the government can really get to the bottom of the government's failure and uncover the truth.

We share that doubt.

In contrast, the envisioned Dietary investigative committee will be able to force people to testify as sworn witnesses through a council of 20 Diet members that will serve as the supervisory body for the panel.

The committee will also have the power to bring perjury charges against a witness who has lied by exercising the constitutional right of the Diet to investigate state affairs.

The panel's hearings will be open to the public, in most instances.

The Dietary panel is expected to get to the truth by taking advantage of its compelling power and the transparency of its activities, and by building on the work done by the government's inquiry body.

There is, however, one big concern.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan initially rejected opposition demand for the establishment of a Diet panel to probe the accident.

The DPJ was concerned that the panel might be used politically as a weapon to attack the government over how former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other top officials responded to the nuclear crisis.

On the other hand, the DPJ wants to draw public attention to problems with the nuclear power policy of the past LDP government, which failed to take sufficient measures to protect nuclear power plants against such risks as major tsunamis and the loss of all power sources.

If the ruling and opposition parties, driven by their different political motives, engage in partisan bickering over the panel's work at the divided Diet, the investigation could turn into a prolonged "blame-game" fueled by mutual criticism.

Let's get things straight.

The mission of the Diet's inquiry panel is not to lay blame on specific people.

Rather, its job is to study relevant data carefully to glean useful lessons from what happened to ensure that such a catastrophic nuclear accident will never happen again.

It is our nation's responsibility to the international community to make such efforts, and the Diet should take it very seriously.

Both the ruling and opposition parties should recognize this and cooperate fully with the panel, starting with the selection of its 10 members, who should be experts with broad viewpoints.

The parties should strike an agreement to refrain from using the committee for partisan attempts to score political points.

Will the panel be able to achieve anything that can survive close scrutiny by future historians?

That will be an acid test of the political integrity, as well as the investigative ability, of the Diet.

If things go well, the panel's work will not only reduce public distrust of politics but also set a valuable precedent for a new role the Diet can play.


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