On May 19, the Yomiuri Shimbun evening edition ran an open letter by House of Councillors President Nishioka Takeo in which he called upon Prime Minister Kan Naoto to resign due to his handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. This would be significant enough if Nishioka were a member of the opposition, but he belongs to the same DPJ as Kan himself. The letter, as well as the admission that Kan, based on unfounded concerns that the injection of seawater could induce re-criticality in the reactor, encouraged TEPCO to halt the injection of seawater based coolant into the plant, has spurred a movement towards calling a no-confidence vote, with support from the Ozawa faction of Kan’s own DPJ, as well as from the opposition LDP. Among the harsh critics are LDP leader Tanigaki Sadakazu, who, based on the newly released information, described the decision to suspend the injection of seawater at such a critical stage as a “man-made disaster”.
Although the English Yomiuri website summarizes the key points of Nishioka’s letter in the same article I linked to above, they did not originally post the entire text or even publish it in the English print edition, although they did promise that “The English translation of Nishioka’s open letter to Kan will be carried on The Daily Yomiuri’s Commentary page on Tuesday.” Well, Tuesday has passed and you can now read the entire letter in English, at Yomiuri or below here.
In the annoyingly typical fashion of the Japanese newspaper industry, they haven’t even published the original Japanese text of the full letter online! Luckily it can be easily found on a number of Japanese blogs, and here I will give my own quick and dirty translation.
To Prime Minister Naoto Kan:
I am sure the weight of the world is on your shoulders, with duties that require your attention day and night. I thank you for your hard work.
As a representative of one of the supreme organizations in the nation’s three independent branches of authority, I would like to venture to express my candid opinion in this open letter. Prime Minister Kan, you should immediately resign from your post.
I think many people share my present thoughts about you: among them survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, residents forced to evacuate their homes due to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, members of the general public and Diet members from both opposition and ruling parties.
I also believe that heads of local governments and assembly members distrust and are concerned about you.
There is a reason why, despite this situation, hardly any voices have called, “Prime Minister Kan, you should resign.” It is generally believed it would be unthinkable to change the supreme leader of the nation at a time when serious problems are occurring that are not limited to national politics, and when measures are under way to deal with the situation.
However, you have continued to abandon your duties as prime minister since the March 11 disaster took place.
This is in itself unthinkable.
Given that you also abandoned your duties as prime minister last year, when a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japan Coast Guard ships off the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, I believe you are not aware of your duties as prime minister concerning state affairs.
There is a Japanese saying that may be used to refute my anger: Don’t change horses in the middle of a rapidly flowing stream.
I agree with this saying, but only when the horse is bravely grappling with the violent current. You, Prime Minister Kan, have neither the passion, determination nor skill to lead the nation. I believe there is more danger in maintaining the status quo than in changing our horse in a rapid current.
If you do not resign now, it will be impossible to solve the problems of survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as the serious problems brought about by the nuclear crisis. At this moment, the plant continues to discharge radioactive substances into the air and ground, and contaminated water is being released into the sea.
I would now like to touch upon points I have been wondering about since March 11–why you did not do certain things or had no inclination to do so.
First, why did you not compile an emergency situation bill and pass it into law immediately after March 11?
You launched various councils and headquarters after the disaster, which ended up confusing the chain of command–a measure to make your responsibility ambiguous and delay decisions.
In restoration efforts after the great quake, considerable burdens and trouble were shouldered by heads of prefectural and municipal governments, their employees, local fire brigades, fire stations, police officers, the Tokyo Fire Department, local welfare commissioners and members of the Self-Defense Forces.
I cannot overlook the fact that you did not hold a meeting of the Security Council of Japan before issuing an order to the Defense Ministry to mobilize 100,000 SDF members. In addition to national defense matters, the Security Council of Japan exists to discuss important matters regarding the handling of serious emergency situations. You ignored the law.
Second, the nuclear plant crisis is a great concern for the international community. You made a serious error when you declined an offer of assistance from U.S. forces in the early stages of the crisis.
Also, you have no vision of how to end the crisis even now.
Third, you must urgently provide people hit by the disaster with any type of housing, instead of promising to provide them with temporary housing units by “early August.”
The government should provide all possible housing for people affected by the disaster, letting them move from shelters to temporary housing units, vacant units of publicly run apartments and private rental units.
Another urgent task for the government is to secure the funding for such measures and improve medical services for disaster victims.
Fourth, it is the prime minister’s duty to deal with the debris created by the disaster. Sorting and disposing of the debris is more difficult than predicted, and it is also an urgent task in the run-up to the rainy season.
You should have presented clear directions and deadlines for various measures, such as new national land planning; urban planning; reconstruction of agriculture, forestry and fisheries; blueprints for helping small and midsize companies rehabilitate themselves; and creation of new educational programs.
Fifth, you should have provided accurate, true information not just to people who have been forced to evacuate from their homes but also people across the country, who have been fearfully watching the development of the nuclear plant crisis.
The nuclear reactors, as experts predicted, went into meltdown. I suspect both Tokyo Electric Power Co. and you already knew it had happened.
Sixth, your political approach is to try to postpone everything. Even in this national crisis, you did not set deadlines on most of the aforementioned tasks.
Faced with growing criticism, you hurriedly announced a new timetable on May 17, but funding for it has not been secured.
Revenue sources for measures to tackle disaster damage, the cost of dealing with the nuclear plant crisis and the government’s new electricity policy all remain uncertain.
If they are too difficult for you to handle, you should voluntarily step down.
Under the current situation, you will have no defense against accusations that your actions are measures to stay in the post of prime minister. This is like washing your own wounds with other people’s blood.
Our nation is facing many difficult tasks, including diplomatic problems and domestic issues such as public pension schemes.
I do not believe you have the ability to deal with these tasks. Before it becomes too late for everything, I again strongly insist you step down as quickly as possible.
Even if opposition parties pass a censure motion in a majority vote in the House of Councillors, you may continue in the post. If you don’t voluntarily resign, the only alternative for opposition parties is to submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet to the House of Representatives before the Group of Eight summit meeting to be held on May 26 and 27.
I now feel deep regret about my help in creating the Kan Cabinet, looking back on my long experience as a politician.
I am asking myself: Can I look straight into the clear eyes of infants, who do not understand they have left their hometowns because of radiation, and of children forced to study in other places than their own schools?
All Diet members, regardless of their parties or groups, must dedicate their lives to ensuring that the March 11 disaster and the nuclear crisis will not cast dark shadows on the future of our children at least.