Diet member criticized for remarks about death of Sri Lankan detainee

A Japanese Upper House member has again drawn criticism in the Diet for her remarks about a Sri Lankan woman who died at an immigration facility in 2021.

Umemura Mizuho of the opposition Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party has made a series of questionable remarks about the death of Wishma Sandamali. Wishma died at an immigration facility in Nagoya, central Japan, at the age of 33, after complaining for days that she was ill.

During Wednesday's meeting of the Upper House judicial affairs committee, Umemura said Wishma may have died as a result of a hunger strike.

Other members of the committee from both the ruling and opposition parties criticized Umemura over her remarks.

Some said the remarks cast doubt on Umemura's sense of human rights, while others said it is wrong to make a defamatory comment based on speculation.

Umemura persisted with her allegations. At the committee meeting on Thursday, she asked whether there was any evidence to prove that Wishma was not faking illness.

She added that although in her opinion most of the people supporting Wishma's family in their legal action in Japan are well-intended, it's possible that they were misled.

Japan's Immigration Services Agency acknowledged in its final report regarding Wishma's death that the detention facility did not have an adequate system for providing medical care.

The secretary general of the Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party, Fujita Fumitake, told a news conference that Umemura's remarks were totally inappropriate. He said her allegations deviate from the established facts of the case, and are based on speculation.

He said the party does not agree with what Umemura said, and apologized to Wishma's family and everyone else concerned for her remarks.

Fujita added that the party has dismissed Umemura from the Diet committee, and will consider further disciplinary action against her.