Japan’s justice minister resigns over two-phrases job gaffe

Japan’s justice minister resigns over two-phrases job gaffe
# 22 November 2010 22:02 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Japan’s justice minister has been forced to resign after making an embarrassing gaffe in which he said his job was too easy because he only had to remember two phrases, APA reports quoting “Telegraph”.
Minoru Yanagida stepped down yesterday (MON), just two months into the job, following the candid admission to party supporters in his Hiroshima constituency eight days ago.
He said: "Being justice minister is easy because I only ever have to remember two phrases, which I can use whenever I am stuck for an answer to a question in parliament."
Mr Yanagida added that the only replies he needed were: "I refrain from making comments on a specific issue" and "We are dealing with the matter based on laws and evidence."
Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, said Mr Yanagida’s comments were "not appropriate" and that he couldn’t "get away" with saying them.
Yoshito Sengoku, the Chief Cabinet Secretary who will take on Mr Yanagida’s brief until a new justice minister is named, said the resignation was "regrettable but unavoidable".
Transcripts from parliamentary sessions showed that Mr Yanagida, who became justice minister in cabinet reshuffle in September, resorted to his stock answers no fewer than 33 times.
Despite claiming his job was easy Mr Yanagida had to deal with several significant issues, including serious accusations that public prosecutors had destroyed important evidence.
His department was also criticised for releasing without charge the skipper of a Chinese fishing boat who clashed with a Japanese Coast Guard vessel off the disputed Senkaku Islands, triggering a diplomatic standoff.
Mr Yanagida announced his resignation just hours after he had told reporters that he intended to stay on as minister and "respond sincerely to Diet deliberations", but the pressure to go proved too great.
Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party had threatened to block a debate on a £33 billion emergency economic stimulus package unless Mr Yanagida resigned.
The move may have forced Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, to call a snap general election in an effort to break the impasse in the Diet.
Several media outlets had also called for Mr Yanagida to resign or be sacked. The Asahi newspaper stated in a recent editorial that his comments underlined the "deplorable state" of Japanese politics.
"His controversial quip was tantamount to a confession that he had sought refuge in these convenient phrases because he, unexpectedly appointed to the Cabinet post, does not have the ability to offer sensible answers to questions," the paper said.
Mr Yanagida said yesterday: "Given that my indiscreet remark in Hiroshima is becoming an obstacle, I have conveyed my resignation to the prime minister."
He is not the only minister in trouble for making controversial comments. Mr Sengoku was forced to apologise in parliament last week for describing Japan’s self-defence forces as "a mechanism of violence".
Taro Aso, the former prime minister, managed to offend the Democratic Party of Japan for comparing it to the Nazi Party.