Henoko: Agriculture Minister’s Decision Unconstitutional

[The following is a translation of an article in the “Koe (Voice)” section, similar to “letters to the editor,” of the Asahi Shimbun Osaka edition dated April 12, 2015.]

Kumano Katsuyuki, lawyer (Hyogo Prefecture, 76)

Okinawa Governor Onaga Takeshi ordered the Okinawa Defense Bureau to stop work on the seabed drilling surveys being carried out in Henoko, Nago City. However, the Defense Bureau submitted an appeal to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries based on the Administrative Appeal Act, and the Minister of Agriculture decided to enact a stay of execution on the governor’s order, rendering it ineffective. I believe the Minister of Agriculture’s decision was in violation of the constitution.

Article 1 of the Administrative Appeal Act states that its purpose is to “protect the rights and interests of the nation’s citizens” by providing all citizens with a way to file a complaint against a government agency. It is a system designed for the sake of the nation’s citizens. The government is using the far-fetched argument that in the event that the government is undertaking a project, it is in the same position as an ordinary citizen, but for the Defense Bureau (the government) to make an appeal to the Minister of Agriculture (also the government) is in complete disregard for the nature of the law. Furthermore, article 68.2 of the constitution stipulates that the prime minister has the authority to dismiss a minister of state. Because the minister of agriculture could be dismissed by the prime minister at any time if the prime minister does not approve of his actions, there is no guarantee that he is able to exercise independent authority, and there is no way to ensure fairness and impartiality. From either perspective, this is in violation of article 31 of the constitution, which guarantees a fair legal process.

If the central government wants to have a battle over the governor’s order, it must do so through the courts. In order to ensure that Japan is truly a constitutional, law-governed state, we, the Japanese people, must continue to emphasize that the appeal and the stay of execution are unconstitutional and invalid.

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