Monday, March 26, 2012

The Article 51 Exemption

During the Friday's House of Councillors Budget Committee session, the first Liberal Democratic Party questioner was the painfully little-known Ishizaki Yosuke (OK, try; try to name whom he represents. See? Neither could I. I had to look it up).

Ishizaki Y. (there were, unbelievably, two LDP questioners in Friday's budget session with the surname Ishizaki) began his questions with the following speech, none of which had anything to do with the business of the day:
Last year on March 29, in a session of the Budget Committee with the purpose of reviewing what had happened, I was seated at this seat.

This was the first session of the Budget Committee after the Great Easter Japan Disaster. Prime Minister Kan and the members of the Cabinet were all in emergency disaster relief uniforms. I asked, "Was it not strange for the supreme commander of the disaster relief effort to board a helicopter for the nuclear power station? For the prime minister to go before Tokyo Electric Power Company, going about yelling at them, "What are you going to do?" I asked, "Was not the venting [of the reactor vessels] and the provision of seawater to the reactors slowed down by this?"

What I got in return was, "At at time of national crisis, to question whether or not government the government was harassing [TEPCO and its workers] -- give us a break (keshikaran)"

Yet now, a year later, if you look at the news reports of today, we have come to learn that almost everything I insisted at the time was true. [Isolated shouts]"
Uh, no. In either retractions of previous stories, reports from the news outlets contradicting their own previous assertions and from reports on the investigations of outside organizations, nearly every one of the things you asserted on that day, Senator Ishizaki, turned out to be false.

How do the members of the Diet get away with continuing to hold to positions that are demonstrably untrue? How do they get to repeat them, so that they are once again entered into the historical record?

First, no one is watching. Well, I was watching -- but what good does that do? Actually that is not true either. My old Mizuho Bank branch used to have the Diet sessions on for the edification/entertainment/sedation of their customers waiting their turns. Many municipal office waiting areas have the broadcasts on for similar reasons. So I was not exactly the only witness to Ishizaki's attempt to rerewrite history.

Second, there is the little business of Article 51 of the Constitution. What Senator Ishizaki was insisting was true was a slander of former Prime Minister Kan Naoto. Even though it was not in his initial slanderous remarks, Ishizaki went on later to implicate and by doing so slander the then Chief Cabinet Minister, now Minister of Economics, Trade and Industry Edano Yukio, seated not four meters away.

What could Edano or Kan do to stop Ishizaki from perpetuating lies and damaging their reputations? Absolutely nothing. It was his Diet time, in which he can say any damn thing about any damn citizen he chooses, because, under Article 51:
Members of both Houses shall not be held liable outside the House for speeches, debates or votes cast inside the House.
Unless his own colleagues censure or expel him, a costly process in terms of political capital and time, he is going to have a lectern at which he can spew outrageous (keshikaran) calumnies forever.

Ishizaki Y. is truly blessed. Contrary to the adage, he can have not only his own opinions but his own facts.

For the video of the session, click here, and do a little digging.


Avery said...

I'm a bit late, but I'd like to point out that Article 51 is a Xerox of the British Parliamentary privilege that states exactly the same thing. The House of Lords in particular is home to some ludicrous and pretty much hilarious falsehoods, which sometimes attract Internet conspiracy theorist who think that because an MP said something it must be true.

MTC said...

Avery -

I assumed as much, given that the authors of the Constitution were just cutting and pasting in ideas from constitutions all over the world.

The problem in the Japanese case is that with Big Media comes the Big Lie. Specifically, the various parts of the Yomiuri, Sankei and Nihon Terebi empires do not adhere to the rule that once a falsehood is exposed, it is not to be repeated.