There is little reason for the Japanese people to trust the words that come form its government. The veil of honesty and integrity has been ripped off by the revelations and lessons learned in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster for even the most ardent supporter. This has been reiterated the past week by the story of how the government either ignored or purposely hid radiation fallout data provided by the US in the early days of the crisis. That story just got more complex.
On June 18, 2012, Asahi Shinbun reported that:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the fax from the US showing the contamination map created from the actual data collected by Global Hawk drones via the US Embassy in Tokyo on March 18 and 20 last year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Asahi that it immediately forwarded the fax to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Ministry of Education. NISA and the Ministry of Education both sat on the data.
A Lower House Representative and “Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs” of LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) describes the event a bit differently.
Itsunori Onodera, a Representative from Miyagi District 6, tweeted on June 18, 2012 as follows:
About the data from the US right after the Fukushima nuclear accident started, the US Embassy asked my office to do something because the Prime Minister’s Official Residence wouldn’t accept the data from them directly. So I liaised with the PM’s Official Residence. However, in the end it was ignored. It is just too irresponsible.
We do not think it possible that all parties can be telling the truth or that there is a misunderstanding about what happened. Either former PM Kan’s office, Mr. Edano’s METI’s office (NISA), or Mr Kaeida’s Foreign Ministry office have conspired to deceive the public (and protect their own actions from being discovered) or Mr. Onodera is lying for political gain. They can not all be telling the truth.
Some of the people responding to his tweet are rather critical of him. They say, “So what did you do then? Did you speak out?“
Mr. Onodera, as with many people at that time – journalists, experts, politicians, bloggers – may have self-censored so as not to cause panic among the population. Or simply, the earthquake and tsunami damage seemed overwhelmingly bigger than the nuclear accident, even after 3 (visible) explosions. (What happened in Reactor 2 is still not known or disclosed.) It was when some people were saying “Let’s go out, have fun and spend money so that the economy doesn’t contract and deflation further sets in”, as I read at that time on an online message board in Japan.
But the government officials at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence knew full well what the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident meant, as Mr. Edano was on record suggesting the evacuation plan for wider areas in Kanto be considered. If what Mr. Onodera says is true, there’s some explaining to do for Mr. Edano, Mr. Kaieda, and Mr. Kan.
Of course, each side of this story has something to gain by not telling the truth. Obviously, the men in the Kan administration don’t want to stain their reputation or admit to wrongdoing, either illegal or immoral. The LDP’s Onodera might just be trying to smear the DPJ in general as a lead up to the pending general elections either this summer to next. Political figures are rarely whistle-blowers lest the controversy splash mud on them as well.
But, what is really amazing is that there are no whistle-blowers from the ranks of career bureaucrats. After all, in just about every case where data was missing or the SPEEDI system failed or some other problem, some unnamed low level bureaucrat has been blamed. To be sure, someone in the bureaucracy knows what happens, either because they did, indeed, cause the problem or they have evidence that contradicts the politicians. Why they do not speak out, especially when they are the being used as scapegoats for politicians and high-ranking bureaucrats is strange. The stories from politicians make the bureaucracy look incompetent if one believes the Kan explanation or complicit in a conspiracy with the Kan administration if one believes Onodera’s version.
Somebody is lying and covering up. Unfortunately, however, PM Noda has already declared that no one individual will be blamed, no one prosecuted for errors of emission or purposeful deception. According to Noda, the entire population must share the blame for a handful of politicians, bureaucrats, inept or criminal nuclear regulators, and TEPCO officials whose negligence prior to the disaster made it more destructive and, in the end, possibly more deadly.
Sadly, Noda might be right in forcing everyone to accept the blame, especially if, in light of this and other evidence of widespread deceptions within the government, the Japanese people do not start holding their government more accountable. These people are not gods and should not be treated as above the law. In fact, because of their positions of trust, they should be held to an even higher level scrutiny than the average Japanese.