The Yomiuri Shimbun Are the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces still unable to improve upon their secretive nature?
Daily activity logs — previously said to have been discarded — of a Ground Self-Defense Force unit engaged in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan were discovered to have been kept at the GSDF.
Initially, the Defense Ministry explained, “The logs do not exist at the GSDF,” and later the ministry announced that they were found at the Joint Staff. However, the GSDF brass had known that electronic data of the logs were also kept at the GSDF.
Senior officials of the Joint Staff gave orders not to announce this on the grounds that existence of the logs would be inconsistent with the previous explanation.
This is a serious error in judgment. Weren’t any officials there to make any objection? It cannot help but be thought that the Joint Staff tried to conceal inconvenient facts systematically. The credibility of the Defense Ministry’s entire explanation for the logs can also be called into question.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada ordered the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance, which is under her direct supervision, to conduct a special investigation into the matter. It is problematic that the SDF is not able to demonstrate its capability to cleanse itself by investigating a matter of such scale.
The Defense Ministry has repeatedly covered up its misconduct, exemplified by the ministry’s failure to disclose to the bereaved family the results of an internal investigation after a Maritime Self-Defense Force official committed suicide in 2004 after being bullied.
The top of the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance is a former superintending attorney of a high prosecutors’ office. We urge him to carry out a strict and prompt investigation from an external viewpoint to restore public trust.
No time for lightweights
What is worrisome is that the ministry and the SDF have a tendency to abandon public documents quickly and easily, with thoughts such as, “There is no merit to keeping them for a long time.”
The logs in question were kept under the judgment of staff thinking that they can be used as a reference for future work.
With the digitization of data at the ministry and the SDF, the cost of storing documents has lowered drastically. It is vital for them to explore a way to manage documents that match the times, without forgetting the viewpoint of effectively utilizing valuable information.
Through this log issue, Inada’s ability to control the ministry has come into question.
Until the issue was reported by media, Inada was unable to find out the existence of the logs at the GSDF. It was one month later when Inada was told that the logs were found at the Joint Staff in December last year. Lack of communication between Inada and administrative officials cannot be denied.
Inada’s imprudent behavior is also conspicious at the Diet.
When asked whether she attended a court hearing representing the educational corporation Moritomo Gakuen in a civil case filed by the corporation, Inada flatly denied it as “false.” In a complete reversal, the defense minister admitted her attendance the following day and made an apology.
It is a blunder that could have been avoided if Inada did not make an immediate response and gave an answer after checking the matter properly.
Opposition parties demanded her resignation, and even the ruling parties are asking about her qualification for the job. Inada should become aware of the weight of a Cabinet minister’s Diet responses.