The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito forced the Upper House to vote on Tuesday to hold a public hearing for the controversial secrecy bill, without giving a chance for the opposition lawmakers to speak against it during the special committee hearing. This has angered several members of the opposition who feel that they are being railroaded into a bill that needs to be carefully looked at first.
Tetsuto Fukuyama of the Democratic Party of Japan said that he has not seen this kind of “Diet steering” before, seeing that only the ruling bloc voted to hold the public hearing. They are keen to have the bill approved by Friday, but in order to do so, they need to hold a regional public hearing. The LDP is looking at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to speak on Wednesday morning at the Upper House, giving a chance for the opposition to question him on this. They are targeting having the public hearing later in the afternoon at Omiya, Saitama Prefecture in order to have it finalized by Friday.
But the different opposition parties are united in their dismay over the turn of events. Even though the parties have different stands when it comes to the bill, they met on Tuesday to criticize the “forceful methods” of the ruling bloc. Fukuyama said, “How can the ruling camp say they will have heard out public opinion when they set the hearing less than one day before holding it?” Keiichiro Asao, secretary-general of Your Party, voted for the bill in the Lower House last week but warned the ruling parties that they need to be very careful in their deliberations as this will have serious consequences for the public, particularly for the media. The bill seeks to have stricter punishment on those who will be found guilty of spreading information that will be classified as “special secrets” by the government.
Aside from the ambiguity of the bill, the opposition also called to question the inconsistent responses of the state minister who was charged with guiding the bill, Masako Mori. LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, during the special committee hearing, apparently did not understand the definition of terrorism that is stated in the bill. Strong opposition from the media and human rights groups are also factors in the passage of the bill, as the critics feel that it constitutes a violation of the public’s right to know and freedom of the press.
[via Japan Times]