Abe denies influence over vet school plan
By Meng Yaping

2017-06-17 20:05 GMT+8

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday denied that he had helped his close friend set up a school in a special economic zone, after two official reports appeared to back up the claims.

"It's normal for a prime minister to give instructions about speeding up all kinds of projects. But in regards with the Kake Institution, I have never personally given any specific instructions or imposed my influence on the matter," said Abe at a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Councilors.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adjusts his suit as he answers questions before the budget committee of the upper house of parliament in Tokyo on June 16, 2017. /VCG Photo

Okayama University of Science was picked by the government to establish a university department of veterinary medicine in Ehime Prefecture. Kake Educational Institution, which operates the university and is chaired by Abe's close friend Kotaro Kake, was selected for the project. This caught public attention because the last such approval was more than 50 years ago.

The local city assembly provided the land to the institution to build the new department for free, and in addition they provided 9.6 billion yen (87.56 million US dollars) as a subsidy for the school's construction costs, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The matter took a dramatic U-turn when Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno confirmed the existence of documents that his ministry had previously said it could not confirm existed, related to Abe's alleged favoritism behind the Kake plan.

Education minister Hirokazu Matsuno speaks to reporters at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on June 15, 2017, about his ministry's internal probe looking for documents which may support allegations of favoritism against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. /VCG Photo‍

Despite all this, Abe and members of his cabinet continue to deny any wrongdoing as the Diet session comes to a close. But his political rivals don't buy it. 

"It says clearly in these documents: 'the will of the prime minister', 'the instructions from the highest level'. The questioning voice on these documents cannot be suppressed. It's highly possible that the prime minister himself has given those instructions," said Tetsuro Fukuyama from the Democratic Progressive Party.

Abe also refused to let Kihei Maekawa, the former vice education minister who has called out the government for fast-tracking the Kake plan, be summoned to testify as a sworn witness in the Diet.

The site where Kake Educational Institution is scheduled to build a new veterinary department of a private university, in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. /VCG Photo

"Why does the Liberal Democratic Party refuse to have people testify? It's unacceptable for Japanese people," complained Akira Koike, Secretariat Head of Japanese Communist Party.

It has also come to light that Abe had received a salary from Kake for duties he carried out there for a couple of years after he was first elected to the lower house in 1993, reported Xinhua News Agency.

This is not the first time the prime minister has been involved in an educational scandal. Voters are still recovering from his alleged funding for nationalist school operator Morimoto. 

There is no solid evidence of Abe's direct involvement in either of the two institutions.

But with the upcoming election for Tokyo prefectural parliament, Abe is also receiving great pressure from his fellow party members to just take the blame.

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