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Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012

EDITORIAL

Epic information failure

It has surfaced that the government failed to keep minutes of meetings of various units it set up to cope with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In view of the disasters' historic significance and devastating and lingering effects, the government's failure to keep the detailed records of the meetings — which could have been accomplished by simply electronically recording the meetings — is deplorable.

The government may make outlines or summaries of those meetings by utilizing existing memos and other materials, but the lack of original minutes will make it extremely difficult not only to reconstruct what kind of judgments the government's March 11 disasters-related units made on what basis but also to learn lessons from their decision-making processes, and to leave an accurate historical record for future generations.

After NHK's initial report on Jan. 22, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which served as the secretariat of the government's task force to cope with the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, admitted the next day that it had not kept minutes of the 23 meetings held by the task force, except for lists of agendas. NISA said that since the meetings were often held without advance notices, it was difficult to keep minutes. The task force, set up by then Prime Minister Naoto Kan on March 11, made decisions on such matters as establishment of no-go zones around the nuclear power plant.

On Jan. 25, the Cabinet Office, which served as the secretariat of the government's task force to deal with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, also admitted that it had not kept minutes of the 19 meetings held by the task force, which also Mr. Kan set up on March 11. The task force made decisions on such matters as transportation of materials to the devastated areas and establishment of a government special unit to support disaster sufferers. Two days later, the government announced that its 10 units, including the two task forces, related to the March 11 disasters had not made minutes of their meetings.

It is clear that the Democratic Party of Japan government violated the law on management of public records, which requires making of records of decisions and proceedings of meetings chaired by heads of administrative organizations — but unfortunately mandates no punishments for not doing so. DPJ government leaders must be severely censured for failing to comprehend that information disclosure is a pillar of democracy.



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