Opposition lawmakers slam reconstruction minister

Opposition lawmakers slam reconstruction minister

Japan's opposition parties are criticizing Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura for remarks he made about evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture. He suggested they were responsible for their decision to abandon their homes following the nuclear accident in 2011 because they weren't instructed to do so by the government.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Imamura quarreled with a reporter who asked whether the government is dodging its responsibility to support the voluntary evacuees. Imamura later apologized for his behavior.

But the opposition Democratic Party's Diet affairs chief, Kazuya Shimba, pounced on his remarks on Wednesday. He said they were out of bounds and showed a total lack of sympathy for the displaced. Shimba said it angered him to think how much Imamura has hurt them.

He said the minister was unqualified for his job, and an apology wasn't good enough.

Keiji Kokuta of the Japanese Communist Party took issue with Imamura's response to a question about whether the evacuees had only themselves to blame if they weren't able to return to their hometowns. Kokuta said Imamura's response amounted to saying, "Basically, yes."

He said this shows a lack of understanding of such issues as reconstruction and voluntary evacuation.

Seiji Mataichi of the Social Democratic Party issued a statement calling Imamura's words careless, abusive, and totally unacceptable. He urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dismiss him.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended Imamura, saying he would continue to carry out his duties as reconstruction minister.

He told reporters on Wednesday that Imamura meant it was up to each evacuee to decide where and how to live.

Suga stressed that the central government will offer strong support to those affected by the nuclear accident in cooperation with the Fukushima Prefectural Government.