A scoop, a shocking article was published on the top page of a morning version of the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper dated September 28, 2015. It was led by ‘the Cabinet Legislation Bureau spent only one day to examine reinterpretation of Article Nine by the government and there are no official documents’. The Legislation Bureau, which had played a decisive role in approving the controversial right of collective self-defense last year, has violated the Public Records and Archives Management Act, too.
CABINET LEGISLATION BUREAU VIOLATES ARCHIVES MANAGEMENT ACT, TOO
The Legislation Bureau, which has its dignity to be a guardian of the Constitution, has worked faithfully to maintain consistency and logical conformity of interpretation of laws (Director General of Bureau Yokobatake Yusuke). It indeed has kept over 40 years together with the successive cabinets a view that ‘the Constitution banns execution of the right of collective self-defense’. Nevertheless, the Bureau has neither made official records on deliberations how the serious decision had been made or preserved archives. The situation is grave.
According to the article of the Mainichi, the Legislation Bureau had received on the previous day, June 30, 2014, a draft text from the National Security Council (NSA) on the interpretation alteration of the right of collective-self defense, which the Abe government announced a decision of approval the following day. The Bureau had replied on the phone, saying ‘no opinion’. The Bureau has failed to produce written documents. The only documents available are those compiled by the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security (a private advisory panel to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo). Chief of General Affairs Section of the bureau answered to the question raised by the Mainichi: ‘We keep records of our deliberations if necessary, but sometimes we don’t. We didn’t need to keep any record of the latest deliberations. It is not true that we chose not to keep any record for certain purposes’.
State’s Office Has Amnesia
After the disclosure of a series of processes on the decision over the right of collective self-defense, arguments were congested on the social networking systems. People tweeted, ‘a socially advanced country will not engage in legal affairs in such a way’ or ‘the nation suffers from amnesia if documents are absent’.
On April 1, 2014, the Public Records and Archives Management Act was implemented so that a historical review could be made, or in other words, so that the state may not contract amnesia. The Article 1 (Objective of the Law) says that official documents mean ‘intellectual property shared by people so that they could sustain the basis of sound democracy’ and specifies that ‘considering a fact that the archives can be used by sovereign people subjectively, basic provisions are set forth to manage public records and archives on the principle of people’s sovereignty’.
The Article 4 stipulates that ‘administrative bodies must, in principle, prepare documents enabling a decision-making process to be traced or verified’ to achieve the objective. The article enumerates concrete items on enactment and abrogation of laws and obliges the government offices to produce written documents.
The fact, however, contradicts the legislation. The Cabinet Legislation Bureau, naturally, committed in enacting the archive management act and examined the bills. But it has not left proceedings on the debates on alteration of interpretation of Article Nine. Surprisingly, the official reply was made ‘via phone’. That is completely unusual.
Relationships among Three Laws
A series of reactions held by the Legislation Bureau on the Cabinet’s decision to approve the right of collective self-defense eloquently reflect the truth of the Abe government. Problems concerning three laws, namely, the Information Disclosure Act, the Public Records and Archives management Act and Special Secret Preservation Act, deeply connect with the right of people to know, democracy and constitutionalism.
November 10, 2015