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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Uruma recalls no off-record biased remark
By MASAMI ITO
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Iwao Uruma stressed Monday he does not recall saying the scandal over alleged illicit political donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. would not implicate lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
But he added that whatever comments he made were off the record and may have been misinterpreted.
"I don't think I made statements that would deny the neutrality or fairness of the prosecutors' investigation by pointing out the tendency of investigations over a specific political party's lawmakers," Uruma told the Upper House Budget Committee. "But I don't know how the reporters perceived my statements."
On Thursday, Uruma, speaking as an unidentified "senior government official," reportedly told reporters that the political funds scandal "would not spread to LDP lawmakers."
At a news conference Monday, Uruma said neither he nor his secretaries remember him making such remarks, but he admitted he has no proof to back up that claim.
"It is either my memory that is wrong, or the reporters' memories that are wrong," Uruma said.
He denied the possibility of someone in his position being able to have contact with investigators openly nor secretly, adding that ever since he became a member of the Cabinet, he has had no interaction with prosecutors.
"I don't think (a deputy chief Cabinet secretary) can have contact with investigative authorities, and I myself have not been in contact at all with the prosecutors over this case," Uruma said.
Uruma, a former police bureaucrat, nevertheless apologized to the budget committee.
"The media did not report the true meaning of my remarks, and I apologize for causing a lot of trouble for everyone," Uruma said.
Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters Monday that Uruma's statements were inappropriate.
"I think (Uruma) has acted with sincerity" to explain his remark, he said. But "it was inappropriate" for Uruma to make such statements that would cause a misunderstanding, he added.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura revealed Uruma's name on a TV talk show Sunday and said he gave his subordinate a stern warning. Kawamura denied Monday morning that further punishment was necessary, including calling for his resignation.
Uruma, former chief of the National Police Agency, made the statement following the arrest of Takanori Okubo, chief secretary of Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law.