Thursday, November 07, 2013

Minister Mori Meandering On The Special Secrets Bill

Though I have not made reference to the question here, I had been wondering what the Abe government thought it was doing assigning the role of sherpa for the fraught Official Secrets bill to Mori Masako, the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety (Link). It seems that the Abe government is now wondering what it thought it was doing as well.
Minister meandering over special state secrets bill causes anxiety within gov't
Mainichi Shimbun

Masako Mori, the state minister in charge of a controversial special state secrets bill, has meandered over the bill during news conferences, raising concerns among government officials...

The translator of the original Japanese text (the original article can be found here) has chosen to render hatsugen ga antei shinai as "meandering." While a succinct and not entirely misleading translation, "wavering" might be better.

As for the quotes from the "government official" and the anonymous official in the Cabinet Office, the Mainichi translation leaves much to be desired.

Recognizing that my own translation talents are notable largely for their near non-existence, here is my version of the key passage:
There were times in the official biweekly news conferences when [Mori] struggled to answer the questions. One person with close ties to the government muttered, "If she gives such inarticulate replies in Diet session, the bill will be out with the first swing of the bat [ippatsu de a'uto]"

Mori is a lawyer. During her period of service at the Financial Services Agency she earned a high level of respect for her expertise in performing such tasks as reforming the Money Lending Act so as to eliminate the so-called "gray zone" interest rates. In regards to the "wavering" in Mori's statements, one Cabinet official, speaking on condition of anonymity, wondered, "Is it not possible that she has difficult accepting some parts of the Official Secrets bill because she is a lawyer?" -- indicative of background whispering of sympathetic arguments [dojoron mo sasayakarete iru].
One should perhaps go all medieval on the Mainichi translator for what is in the English language version, or the English-speaking editors (probably the latter). However, the original Japanese text has editorializing and extemporizing not entirely consonant with the ethos of the unbiased journalist. Exactly how, for example, could Mori earn "a high level of respect for her expertise" (jitsumu noryoku e no hyoka ga takai) from less than three years at the Financial Services Agency?

As for the gist of the unidentified Cabinet Office official's remark -- that a deep knowledge of law actually hobbles Mori's capacity to defend the secrets bill -- add "puckish" to the list of adjectives describing at least some elements of Japan's bureaucracy.

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