Friday, April 7, 2017

PM Abe Dismisses Calls For Imamura Resignation

Imamura At Diet Thursday

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismissed opposition calls Thursday for the resignation of the disaster reconstruction minister, Masahiro Imamura, over remarks implying Fukushima evacuees yet to return to parts of the prefecture deemed safe to live in should fend for themselves.

Masahiro Imamura had been defending at a Tuesday press conference the central government’s decision to delegate help for the “voluntary evacuees” from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster when he said it is such people’s “own responsibility, their own choice” not to return.

“I want him to continue to be alongside those affected by the disaster and devote every effort to his duties with the aim of realizing reconstruction as soon as possible,” Abe said during a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

Earlier Thursday, Imamura, 70, apologized for “causing a nuisance to everyone” at a session of the lower house committee on reconstruction from the 2011 disaster.

Housing subsidies ran out last month for people who left areas other than government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

At the Japanese Lower House of the Diet on Thursday Imamura said “Prime Minister Abe said I should apologize that I used a disparaging word and gave the impression that (the evacuees) are responsible for their own (return) despite the fact that they are displaced because of the nuclear disaster, and I deeply apologize,” Imamura said.

Kazuko Kori, a lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic Party the recovering area of northeastern Japan, had called for Imamura to resign because “we cannot discuss reconstruction under this minister.”

Many in the Diet have dismissed Imamura's aplogy as being nothing more than "Abe told me to, so that is the sole reason I am apologizing".

But Imamura vowed to “keep performing my duties in good faith.”

Imamura had aggressively lashed out at the reporter who had asked him the question on Tuesday, yelling “shut up” at the reporter during the press conference. He offered a brief apology the same day for having “become emotional.”

He said Thursday he is willing to apologize to the reporter, “if Prime Minister Abe said it is necessary.”

The lower house reconstruction committee is currently debating a proposal to reform a special law relating to the 2011 disaster that would see the state pay for cleanup efforts in the areas of Fukushima still too contaminated with radioactivity to live in.

Imamura has been in his post since a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Disaster Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura Calls Fukushima Evacuees Leeches

Masahiro Imamura, Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister, said Tuesday displaced people yet to return to areas of Fukushima Prefecture deemed safe to live in are “responsible for their own lives and living,” before snapping at the reporter whose question prompted the remark.

Imamura made the comment at a press conference explaining the government’s efforts for the reconstruction of areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Housing subsidies ran out last month for those who had left areas other than government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Citing a court decision last month that the central government and the plant’s operator were liable in the nuclear disaster in the first ruling of its kind since the crisis, a reporter asked what the state is doing to help the “voluntary evacuees.”

Imamura responded that the central government has delegated such matters to prefectural authorities, which are more knowledgeable about local conditions.

“It’s evacuees responsibility, their own choice not to return, they are acting like leeches” he said when pressed further, pointing out that other evacuees have managed to go back to the areas.

The reporter said some of those still displaced have found themselves unable to return, and asked whether the state should take more responsibility for looking after those people.

“We are taking responsibility. The evacuees refuse to return so we have the situation now. So why are you saying something so rude?” Imamura shouted, slamming his podium.

Pointing a finger at the reporter, he then yelled, “Take that back! Get out of here!”

“You’re the one who’s causing problems for the evacuees,” someone called out as Imamura walked away from the podium, to which the minister responded “Shut up! You are annoying!" before leaving the room.

“The minister has informed me that he became emotional and was unable to remain calm for part of today’s press conference,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a subsequent press conference.

Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said the matter is one for Imamura himself to “handle appropriately.”

Imamura apologized later Tuesday, telling reporters he had “become emotional.”  When he was pressed again to explain what the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is doing to assist the remaining evacuees, Imamura thanked the media present and left the press room without comment.

Imamura, 70, was installed in his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

Here is video of the exchange

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