I am pleased to welcome you here today.
It is both an honor and a responsibility for me to assume office as Chairman of the Research Commission on the Constitution.
As you are well aware, Research Commissions on the Constitution have been set up in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, under the amended Diet Law, to conduct broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution of Japan.
The Diet debated constitutional revision very briefly under the occupation of the Allied Forces after Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, which contained the terms of unconditional surrender,on August 15, 1945 at the end of the last World War.
To be specific, a draft Constitution of Japan was presented to the 90th Imperial Diet session on June 20, 1946 as a Government-sponsored bill to revise the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. In the House of Representatives, the bill was put to interpellations after an explanation on its purport was given in the plenary sitting on June 25. The interpellation session was closed on June 28. On the same day, the bill was referred to a 'Committee on Revision of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan' composed of 72 members appointed by the Speaker. Committee consideration lasted from July 1 to 23. Thereafter, a subcommittee made up of 14 members, including Chairman Hitoshi Ashida, worked on adjusting draft amendments to the bill proposed by political parties and groups in the House, and then the Committee on Revision of the Constitution approved joint amendments on August 21. The amended bill was approved in the plenary sitting on August 24. The bill to revise the Constitution was finalized when the House of Representatives assented in its plenary sitting to the bill sent back by the House of Peers on October 7. Thus, the present Constitution of Japan was promulgated on November 3, 1946. This story about the enactment of the new Constitution is well known.
Over 50 years have passed since that day. During this period, both domestic and international affairs have undergone immensely great changes, to an extent far beyond what could have been imagined at the time of the enactment. On the threshold of a new century, the National Diet is required, as the highest organ of the state power, to conduct debates on the fundamental framework of our State.
It is very important for us to research and study, through discussions in this Research Commission, a future vision of Japan as a new state seen from the viewpoint of the entire nation, while facing up to the changed reality and holding firm to the ideals of respect for the human rights of individuals and the sovereignty of the people; and to determine not to become a state of aggression. Therefore, I believe that the task entrusted to this Research Commission is of great moment.
I will count on all colleague members of the Commission for valuable advice
and cooperation, and pledge to do all in my power to manage the business
of this Commission so that it proceeds in a smooth and equitable way, and
I look forward to your contributions.
On this occasion, I would like to make a short comment.
With 24 days to go until the current Diet session closes, our Research Commission on the Constitution has come to hold its 10th meeting. So, I would like to review and report on the course which our research has been following so far.
The Commission was set up on 20 January (2000 throughout) upon the convening of a Diet session. The first meeting was held on the same day to elect its Chairman and Directors from among Commission members.
On 17 February, to start its research activities, this Commission heard opinions from six members representing different political groups in the House.
Since 24 February, we have been conducting research by hearing the views of invited informants, and having question-and-answer sessions, to ascertain the details of how the Constitution of Japan was formulated and enacted.
So far ten informants have been invited to our meetings, and in the five Commission meetings in five Commission meetings held on 24 February, 9 March, 23 March, 6 April and 20 April, a total of 64 Commission members put questions to the informants.
The main points of statements presented by the ten informants concern wide-ranging matters as will be seen in the following examples:
From what points of view should the details of formulating the Constitution
be evaluated? Is there any indication that the GHQ imposed the Constitution
in the course of its formulation and enactment?
Was the enactment of the Constitution of Japan under the occupation of the Allied Forces, among other matters, contrary to the provisions of the Hague Convention clauses on the laws and customs of war on land? Questions were raised about the relationship between the purport of the Ashida amendment and the insertion of a civilian clause by the Far Eastern Commission.
On 11 May, our Commission had a members-only brainstorming discussion on the basis of what we had obtained from hearing views from and conducting question-and-answer sessions with 10 informants in the preceding five meetings on the details of how the Constitution of Japan came into being. In this discussion 39 members freely expressed their opinions. With this, the Commission concluded its discussions on the formulation of the Constitution.
Through these discussions at our Commission meetings,I trust that members from different political groups in the House have reached a common understanding of the objective facts about the details of how the Constitution was drawn up, setting aside their different evaluations stemming from their different political stances.
On 27 April, in advance of Constitution Day on 3 May, the first since the Research Commissions on the Constitution were inaugurated in both Houses, members expressed their opinions freely. A total of 34 took the floor to express their free views in the session.
In this session, members made statements covering a wide range of topics. The opinions expressed are, among others:
In what ways should the Commissions proceed in their future deliberation and research? What principles should be adopted in the Constitution of a modern state? What is a reasonable understanding of the relations between democracy and traditionalism? and comments on pioneering values carried by the Constitution of Japan.
And today, we have heard from an official of the Supreme Court an account of major cases of Supreme Court judgments of unconstitutionality in the postwar days, and put questions to him after his exposition. Eight members, including myself, took the floor in the question-and-answer session.
Up to date, the total number of members who spoke in the Commission meetings came to 151, spending over 37 hours in total.
Since the Constitution belongs to the people,I believe that we should continue to conduct broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution, seeking an ideal vision of Japan for the 21st century and holding firm to the principles of respect for human rights, the sovereignty of the people, and not becoming again an aggressor state.
Last but not least, I offer most sincere gratitude to the directors and observers as well as all members of the Commission for your valuable advice and cooperation, without which this Commission would never have been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth way as we have witnessed right up to today. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
On this occasion, I would like to make a short comment.
Today is the final day for the Research Commission to sit this year. So I would like to report on the course which our research has been following so far.
The Commission was set up on 20 January (2000 throughout) upon the convening of the 147th Diet session. The first meeting was held on the same day to elect its Chairman and Directors from among Commission members.
Then on 17 February, to start its research, this Commission heard opinions from six members representing different political groups in the House. From 24 February to 20 April, the Commission held five meetings to hear views from ten invited informants and to have question-and-answer sessions on the details of how the Constitution of Japan was formulated and enacted. Then on 11 May we had a members-only brainstorming discussion to conclude the Commission's deliberation on that theme.
Through these discussions, I believe that members from different political groups in the House have reached a common understanding of the objective facts about preciesly how the Constitution was formulated, setting aside their different evaluations stemming from their different political stances.
On 27 April, in advance of Constitution Day on 3 May, the first since the Research Commissions on the Constitution were set up in both Houses, members expressed their opinions freely. On 25 May, we heard from an official of the Supreme Court an account of major cases of Supreme Court judgments of unconstitutionality in the postwar days, and put questions to him after his exposition in order to verify, in light of the judgments of unconstitutionality, the course followed by the Constitution since its enactment.
Thereafter, at its meeting on 5 July in the 148th special Diet session convened in the wake of the 42nd general election for the House of Representatives, the Commission's Chairman and Directors were elected from among Commission members. Then, at a meeting held on 3 August during the 49th extraordinary Diet session, a brainstorming discussion was held to hear opinions freely expressed by Commission members newly-appointed after the general election. A total of 20 members presented their opinions on how the Commission should proceed in its future business.
Since 28 September, or at the outset of the 150th extraordinary Diet session, the Commission has been conducting research on an ideal vision of Japan for the 21st century by hearing views from, and having question-and-answer sessions with, invited informants.
In discussing this theme, the Commission held seven meetings--28 September, 12 October, 26 October, 9 November, 30 November, 7 December and today (21 December 2000)--with 12 invited informants present altogether. A total of 88 members, including myself, took the floor in the question-and-answer sessions.
The main points of statements presented by the 12 informants covered enormously wide-ranging topics, spurring ardent discussions in the question-and-answer sessions:
>> What kinds of change will the world undergo in the 21st century and what will be the course for the states to follow by modifying their roles to cope with such changes?
>> What duties should Japan fulfil for the benefit of the world, and to meet this requirement, what should the Japanese think about and carry out?
>> How should Japan's politics and society be transformed?
>> How will the Constitution become involved in these issues mentioned above, or how should the Constitution be?
Up to date, a total of 260 Commission members took the floor to give their opinions, and 22 invited informants and a Supreme Court official made their statements, with a total of over 75 hours spent on the meetings.
From 10 to 19 September, a House delegation was dispatched to European countries, namely Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Italy and France, on a mission to conduct research on the situation surrounding the Constitutions of these countries. A résumé report on the results of this mission was presented to the meeting of this Commission on 28 September. The content is carried in a written report on the mission, copies of which were distributed at the Commission meeting of 9 November.The report drew attention from, among others, colleges and universities, and mass media.
From the current Diet session, as part of the House's public relations activities, the Commission started publishing newsletters of the Research Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives. We have sent them either by fax or e-mail to over 1,000 people and distributed to members of the public who attended our Commission meetings as observers. In this way we are making efforts for easier access to House information.
I believe that, while keeping in mind that the Constitution belongs to the people and holding firm to the principles of respect for human rights, the sovereignty of the people, and not becoming again an aggressor state, we should continue to conduct broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution in the new century, seeking ways in which Japan should cope with various issues coming up in the 21st century; for instance, the role Japan should play in maintaining world peace as a member of the United Nations, how crisis management should be carried out in the state, questions of how to protect individuals'sprivacy in the information society, the issues of bioethics, ways of coping with the problems of the global environment, and ways of creating a gender-equal society.
Last but not least, I offer most sincere gratitude to the directors and observers as well as all members of the Commission for your valuable advice and cooperation, without which this Commission would never have been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth way as we have witnessed right up to today. I am very happy to see our Commission close its final session for this century in this manner. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
There are only two weeks left until the 151st Diet session closes. Here, I would like to review and report on the activities of the Research Commission on the Constitution.
During the current Diet session, our main activities were, just as in the previous Diet session, questions and answers with informants under the theme of "A vision of Japan in the 21st century". From February 8 to May 17, we had met five times, heard the opinions of invited informants, and held question-and-answer sessions. So far nine informants have been invited to our meetings, and a total of 71 Commission members, including myself, put questions to the informants.
The main points presented by individual informants were as follows: the role and task of science and technology, globalization and the Nation-State, the progress in identification of the genome and ethical considerations in the application of the life sciences, the advent of an aging society with fewer children and the problem of the declining labor force, the ideal social insurance system, dealing with changes in human society caused by the IT revolution, the concept of a nation and the need for restructuring of its concept, the role of Japan in Northeastern Asia, the relationship of the state and the regionals', and others. Our Commission conducted serious discussions of wide range on the relationship of all these issues with the Constitution, or an ideal form of the Constitution.
Furthermore, during the current session of the Diet, in order to hear opinions on the Constitution from various levels of the people, one open hearing was held in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 16 and a second one in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture,on June 4, 2001. These two hearings were reported in summary form by Acting Chairman KANO Michihiko on April 26 and on June 14. Opinions on the Japanese Constitution were heard from 20 speakers including members of the public who responded to an open invitation, and 18 members of the Commission including myself participated in presenting questions and comments. Opinions and comments from the floor were also heard from seven persons during the hearings.
Today, in relation to the Constitution of Japan, we held a brainstorming discussions without setting an agenda. A total of 19 members of the Commission presented their statements.
Under the recognition that the constitution belongs to the people, I think that we still need to have further discussions on a great many themes, among them, the global environment, the public election of the Prime Minister, the maintenance of national security, bioethics in genetic engineering, and cooperation with the United Nations. I would like to consult our directors about these issues in directors' meetings. Whilst we hold firm to the principles of respect for human rights, the sovereignty of the people, and not becoming an aggressor nation, I believe that we should continue to conduct broad and comprehensive research.
Last but not least, I offer my most sincere gratitude to the directors and observers as well as all members of the Commission for your valuable advice and cooperation, thanks to which this Commission has been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth manner up until today. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
Today is the final day for the Research Commission on the Constitution to sit this year. So I would like to sum up our proceedings by looking back at what we have achieved this year.
During the 151st Diet session which started in January, we pursued the main theme 'A Vision for Japan in the 21st Century,' a theme carried over from last year, largely in question-and-answer sessions with invited informants. In five meetings from 8 February to 17 May, we received opinions from nine informants altogether and conducted question-and-answer sessions: seventy-one questions were put by myself and other members.
Statements presented by the informants included many points in regard to the Constitution, setting in motion a variety of activated discussions with particular focus on the ideal form of the Constitution: What kind of impact and mission does the development of science and technology have? What reforms does education in Japan need? What sort of influence does globalization have on the status of the nation-state? As biotechnology and especially genome research advances, what sort of life ethics should we establish? What kind of social security and problems will confront us and how shall we cope with them, as the low birthrate and the aging society result in a dwindling workforce? What sort of social response should humanity take in the face of the IT revolution? Should the concept of the nation-state be reconfigured in today's world, and if so, in what form? What role should Japan play in Northeast Asia? What should be the relationship between the central and local governments in the operation of executive power?
On 14 June, we had a brainstorming discussion without setting any theme, where nineteen members expressed their opinions regarding the Constitution.
In the same way as last year, we dispatched a Parliamentary delegation from late August through early September to a total of eleven countries to take a closer look at their respective constitutions: Israel, Eastern European countries like Russia and Hungary, and five monarchies such as Holland and Spain.
The delegation's findings were reported to the 11 October meeting of the Commission, and the official report was submitted last month to the Speaker with a copy distributed to all Commission members. The contents of the report included: the formative process of the Russian Constitution and the extent to which it has spread through the people; the strong power of the President and the checks of the Parliament; the actual state of judicial review by constitutional court; the enactment of constitutions in the Eastern European countries following the series of democratic reforms at the end of the Cold War as well as amendment procedures and constitutional characteristics; the status and power of monarchs as well as the constitutional definition and operation of the monarchic system in the monarchies visited, and; introduction and abolition of the popular election of the prime minister.
The features we found in common in each nation concerned were: First, the people need to be given ample information on the themes of discussion concerning the constitution, no matter what the political system is, and it is the people who make the final judgement on what the ideal form should be for each country. Furthermore, confidence in their leaders is essential to such a judgement.
In the extraordinary session of the 153rd Diet which started in September, while continuing further research on 'A Vision of Japan in the 21st Century,' we put emphasis and energy in our research focusing on three perspectives: the United Nations and security, various issues regarding the executive power versus the other two powers, and the guarantee of human rights. We invited six informants, and altogether fifty follow-up questions were asked by the members including myself.
Points presented by the informants were: a statement on constitutional revision from a protectionist standpoint that each generation of the people should determine and conduct the national affairs according to its own ideas; foreign and security issues which call for restructuring based on clear-cut national strategies; reconciliation between the general and special interests through "deliberative democracy"; the benefits of reexamining the relationship between the parliament and the cabinet from the standpoint of public administration; the actual guarantee of human rights in Japan, required establishment of human security and the right to live in peace; and a proposal for a constitutional court to be set up for effective constitutional review by a judicial power without going through a constitutional revision.
We also took up the issue of popular election of the prime minister initiated by Prime Minister Koizumi, and other pressing issues, both foreign and domestic, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack; resulting in lengthy and productive deliberations on domestic and international changes brought about by the current events.
We also held three open hearings to hear opinions on the Constitution from different levels of the people. The first was held on the theme, "The Constitution of Japan" in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture on April 16; the second on the theme "A Vision for Japan in the 21st Century" in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, on June 4, and the third on the theme "Japan's role in the international community" in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, on November 26. Question and answer sessions followed the presentation of opinions from twenty-six speakers including eleven members of the public who responded to an open invitation, joined by twelve persons who responded to an invitation to express their opinions from the floor.
Although there was a certain amount of disruption, I think it is of paramount importance that we Diet members, as representatives of the people, provide occasions where we can directly hear their voices. Getting opinions from members of the people also gives credibility to our research activities.
As a final effort, we held a brainstorming session today where, in reflecting over our endeavors of the past year, we summarized the issues deliberated during the 153rd Diet to conclude the Commission's activities. A total of twenty-seven members voiced their opinions during the meeting.
In regard to research themes, methods and schedules for the coming year and beyond, directors of the Commission will continue to consult over coordination in their meetings, with reference to what we discussed today. Here, we hold firm to the recognition that the Constitution belongs to the people. Put another way, the principles we must firmly maintain are: respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will never revert to being an aggressor country. With these principles in mind, we intend to continue to pursue broad and comprehensive research.
Now, I would like to conclude my speech in the last meeting of this year by offering most sincere gratitude to the Acting Chairman, directors, those who took part in meetings, and all Commission members for valuable guidance and cooperation. Without them, we would never have been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth manner in our operation of the Commission.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
We have only one week left until the 154th Diet session closes. Here, I would like to review and report on the activities of the Research Commission on the Constitution.
During the current Diet session, we established four subcommittees in the Commission in order to make an effective and specialized investigation into specific issues regarding the Constitution. They are: Subcommittee on Guarantee of Fundamental Human Rights, Subcommittee on Fundamental and Organizational Role of Politics, Subcommittee on Japan's Role in International Society, and Subcommittee on Local Autonomy.
What we discussed in the Subcommittees was briefed today by each Subcommittee Chairperson. From February 14 to July 11, a total of 20 informants have presented their statements and we put questions to them and made comments at length.
Furthermore, during the current session of the Diet, in order to hear opinions on the Constitution from various levels of the people, we held two Open Hearings that were the fourth and fifth hearings of the Commission: in Nago City, Okinawa, on April 22, and in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, on June 24.
Both hearings were reported in summary form by Deputy Commission Chairman NAKANO Kansei on April 25 and today. Opinions on the Japanese Constitution were heard from 12 speakers comprised of members of the public who responded to an open invitation, and 16 members of the Commission including myself participated in presenting questions and comments. Opinions and comments from the floor were also heard from seven persons during the hearings.
In the two hearings, some members of the audience made persistent demands to speak, causing disruptions to the order of business from time to time. Such behavior goes against the rules and is not appropriate for a forum of discussion where we have an opportunity to share thoughts on the Constitution with the people, and I find these actions deplorable and reprehensible.
Based in part on the report of the Open Hearing in Okinawa, we held brainstorming discussions on Japan and the Constitution in the 21st Century including the security of Japan in the April 25 Commission meeting. Today, based in part on the report of the Open Hearing in Sapporo and the reports of four Subcommittee Chairpersons, we held brainstorming discussions on the Constitution of Japan.
For the next session of the Diet and beyond, I think it necessary to continue to conduct detailed investigations into the Constitution through Subcommittees, bearing in mind the principles of respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will never revert to being an aggressor country. The directors of the Commission will continue to consult over research themes and other matters.
In my opinion, it will be very useful for the Commission in its broad and comprehensive research to take up in its discussion the current interests of various national issues in the press and other media while investigating the Constitution.
From the perspective of comparison with other constitutions, discussion based on the findings of the Diet delegations sent overseas by the House of Representatives will provide a more effective investigation.
For example, the issue of legislation in case of national emergency became a focus of debate during the current session of the Diet. In case of national emergency, how can we safeguard the security of the country and the people? What legislative framework do we need for this? In the Commission's discussion of these issues, I think that we may learn a lot from referring to the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) that sets constitutional stipulations for rescue and relief in times of natural disaster, contingencies for riots, and the defense in the event of military attack by a foreign country.
To be more specific, the stipulations for emergency cases in the Basic Law are as follows: Article 35, paragraph 3, stipulates :"Where a natural disaster or accident endangers a region larger than a provincial state, the Government may, to the extent necessary to effectively deal with such a danger, instruct the provincial state government to place their police forces at the disposal of other provincial states, and may use units of the Federal Border Guard or the Armed Forces to support the police forces." Article 91, paragraph 1, stipulates: "In order to avert any imminent danger to the existence or to the free democratic basic order of the Federation or a provincial state, a provincial state may request the services of the police forces of other states, or of the forces and facilities of other administrative authorities and of the Federal Border Guard." The other stipulation provides a total of 11 articles with detailed procedural definitions, that begins with the sentence "The determination that federal territory is being attacked by armed force or that such an attack is imminent is made by the Bundestag (Federal Assembly) with the consent of the Bundesrat (Federal Senate) (Article 115a, paragraph 1).
In another issue under debate, that of personal information protection, as seen in implementing the Basic Residential Registers Network System, or Juki Net, we can refer to a relevant stipulation such as Article 10, paragraph 1, of the Netherlands constitution, which says, "Everyone shall have the right to respect of his privacy, without prejudice to restrictions laid down by or pursuant to Act of Parliament." Paragraph 3 also makes stipulations for privacy rights:"Rules concerning the rights of persons to be informed about data recorded concerning them and of the use that is made of such data, and to have such data corrected, shall be laid down by legislation." The Finnish Constitution stipulates the right to access information in Article 12, paragraph 2:"Documents and recordings in the possession of the authorities are public, unless their publication has for compelling reasons been specifically restricted by legislation. Everyone has the right of access to public documents and records."
We can also refer to the following stipulations in regard to far-reaching technological innovations and ethics issues in recent years, as prominently seen in the fields of genetic engineering and organ transplant. The Swiss constitution stipulates in Article 119, paragraph 1:"Persons shall be protected against the abuse of medically assisted procreation and gene technology." In addition, Article 119a, paragraph 1, stipulates:" The Confederation shall legislate on the use of human organs, tissues, and cells. In the said case, it shall pay due consideration in order not to harm human dignity, personality and health." We may proceed with our discussion in part by making references to the above.
Last but not least, I offer my most sincere gratitude to the Subcommittee Chairpersons, directors, and observers as well as all members of the Commission for their valuable advice and cooperation, thanks to which this Commission has been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth manner up until today.
In concluding my reflections on the Commission's activities, I reiterate my appreciation for all the cooperation extended by all of you during the present session of the Diet. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
Today is the final day for the Research Commission on the Constitution to sit this year. So I would like to sum up our proceedings by looking back at what we have achieved in the year 2002.
During the 154th and the 155th Diet sessions which started in January and in October respectively, we established four Subcommittees to conduct specialized and effective research into specific themes regarding the Japanese Constitution. We have just heard the reports of the Chairpersons of those four Subcommittees.
The contents of the discussions held in each Subcommittee were reported by the Subcommittee Chairperson to the Commission in the meetings of July 25 and today. We received opinions from 24 informants altogether and held robust discussions.
Statements presented by the informants set in motion a variety of lively discussions on many points with particular focus on their relationship with, and the ideal form of, the Constitution. They were, among other things, guarantee of human rights in a new age, human rights of foreign residents, new human rights, basic labor rights and employment measures, a widening class division regarding education and basic human rights, the ideal form of parliamentary cabinet system, perspectives from which to review the system of governance, bicameral and election system, ideal judiciary review system, governance structure under the Meiji Constitution, constitution and political parties, the ideal form of international cooperation centering on peace-keeping operations and peace-keeping forces, an ideal vision for Japan in international society with regard to Free Trade Agreements, ideal security of Japan, development of the EU Constitution as well as national constitutions, history and background of rearmament and emergency legislation in Germany, regional decentralization reform and a doshu system, various tasks of decentralization reform including mergers of villages and municipalities, local self-rule and regional finances, various tasks for realizing decentralization, a perspective in Mie Prefecture centering on people in their daily lives as the starting point, roles of a local (basic-unit) government for decentralization, and measures taken by Shiki City.
In the same way this year as last, the House of Representatives dispatched a Diet delegation comprising the Commission's members from the end of September through early October to a total of eight countries to get firsthand information on their respective constitutions: the United Kingdom, Thailand, Singapore, China and Republic of Korea as well as the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The outline of the delegation's findings was reported to the November 7 meeting of the Commission. The contents of the report included: situation of guarantee of human rights in the United Kingdom, the current status of the House of Lords reform, the relationship between UK politicians and bureaucrats, regional policy of the Blair Administration led by the Labour Party; in Thailand, the activities of the Constitutional Court and measures against political corruption; main constitutional characteristics and socio-political trends regarding the constitutions of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia; Singapore's election system from the standpoint of multi-racial harmony; China's socialist concept of the market economy as well as trends toward constitutional revision; in Korea, the activities of the Constitutional Court and the National Human Rights Committee as well as legislation sponsored by parliament members.
One distinctive feature caught our attention. Amid, and in response to various situations arising from, the rapid change of society, these countries have conducted national debate on an ideal form of constitution, based on which they have amended their constitutions.
The research period of the Commission is regarded as approximately five years as a time framework according to what was agreed in the Directors' meeting of the House Standing Committee on Rules and Administration. The closing of the 154th session of the Diet has passed the turning-point of this period, two and a half years.
On November 1 to mark this occasion, the Commission produced an Interim Report containing its proceedings and deliberations to date, and presented it to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the same day. On November 29, we reported to the plenary sitting of the House on the history of submitting the Interim Report along with its outline.
This year too, we held open hearings to hear opinions on the Constitution from residents in regional cities from all walks of life.
The first was held in Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture on April 22; the second in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, on June 24, and the third in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, on December 9, all on the same theme 'Japan and Constitution of the 21st Century.' Question and answer sessions followed the presentation of opinions from eighteen speakers. Eleven persons who attended the hearings took the occasion to express their opinions from the floor. We believe that this kind of opinion gathering directly from the people is very important to the Diet Members who are representatives of our people. This also led to trust-building among the people with regard to the activities and contents of our ongoing research.
Occasionally, however, there was a certain amount of disruption at the open hearings from some attendees who persisted in taking the floor. I believe that such flouting of the rules is unfitting to forum like ours where we hold constitutional debate with the people. I strongly condemn this kind of behavior.
As a final effort, we held a brainstorming session today when, reflecting over our endeavors of the past year, we summarized the issues that were deliberated next year to conclude the Commission's activities.
In regard to research for the coming year and beyond, the directors of the Commission will continue to consult over coordination in their meetings, with reference to what we discussed today.
Recognizing that the Constitution belongs to the people, we must firmly maintain the principles: respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will never revert to being an aggressor country. Holding firm to these principles, we intend to continue to pursue in future broad and comprehensive research into the Constitution of Japan.
Lastly I would like to offer my deep gratitude to the Deputy Chairman, directors, those who took part in meetings, and all Commission members for valuable guidance and cooperation. Without them, we would never have been able to proceed with our operation of the Commission in such an equitable and smooth manner.
I would like to take this occasion to make a speech here.
Today is the final sitting of the Research Commission on the Constitution in the 156th National Diet. As you are aware, during this National Diet session, we established four subcommittees in the Commission and conducted specialized and effective research for the purpose of comprehensively investigating into the Preamble and 103 articles of the Constitution of Japan. They were the Subcommittee on the Ideal Constitution as Supreme Law; the Subcommittee on Security and International Cooperation; the Subcommittee on Guarantee of Fundamental Human Rights, and; the Subcommittee on Ideal Government and Organizations.
Every month each subcommittee chair made a summary report of what had been discussed in his or her subcommittee. A total of 25 informants presented statements to the subcommittee members, who also conducted active discussions among themselves.
In addition to informants, we also adopted a method of hearing keynote statements in which two subcommittee members present their opinions. The statements were followed by questions and comments, as well as discussion among the members. In this manner, we discussed the following themes in a total of three sessions: firstly, international cooperation and the ideal form of ODA in particular, secondly, Article 9 (war renunciation, nonpossession of war potential, and denial of belligerency) in the Subcommittee on Security and International Cooperation, and lastly, the relationship between the Diet and the cabinet, the ideal and fundamental form of the popular sovereignty and government in general in the Subcommittee on Ideal Government and Organizations.
I felt that the broad but insightful discussions among subcommittee members based on the research reported by keynote speakers were extremely significant, and made a great contribution to our research.
In the meetings of the Commission, our research was mainly based on free discussion. We held free discussions as occasions arose, and during the current Diet session we additionally heard the chair of each subcommittee present report on his or her subcommittee proceedings, followed by discussion across the board on the themes presented. This method made our research more substantial.
In the increasingly tense atmosphere of the international situation, discussion of current affairs that become national topics should lead to a further contribution to our broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution of Japan. From this perspective and based on decisions of the Commission Directors' meetings, we have conducted free discussions on constitutional aspects involved in the Iraq issue and the North Korean problem three times.
In the free sessions, first of all we discussed the ideal security and international cooperation of Japan in the unpredictable and unclear international situation surrounding the country. We also discussed very actively the Constitution's relationship with the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the UN Charter, and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
Article Five (c) of the San Francisco Treaty says, "The Allied Powers for their part recognize that Japan as a sovereign nation possesses the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense referred to in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and that Japan may voluntarily enter into collective security arrangements." This paragraph not only carries historic significance, but has relevance today. I believe that this is one of premises that we should bear in mind without fail in discussing the security of Japan today.
The major features of our research during the current Diet session were that we now extended our research to the emperor system and Article 9, specific discussion of which had hitherto been avoided.
We can say that the research that has been conducted in regard to the Constitution of Japan has been broad and comprehensive in the true sense of the words. I have been impressed with the way the discussion has been conducted quietly and earnestly throughout the sessions. The repeated debate both in the subcommittees and the Commission is bringing about points which the political parties can consent to or agree on. This is one of the great results we have achieved through our research in the current Diet session. I am very pleased to note that each political party has come to evince consensus on the continuation of the emperor-as-symbol system and the existence of the Self-Defense Forces.
During this current Diet session too, we held two open hearings to hear views on the Constitution from residents in regional cities from all walks of life in order to reflect public opinion in our future research in the Commission. The first, the seventh such open hearing, was held in Kanazawa city, Ishikawa Prefecture on May 12th; the second, the eighth hearing, in Takamatsu city, Kagawa Prefecture on June 9th.
The gist of the discussion in both hearings was reported to us by Deputy Chairman SENGOKU Yoshito on May 29th and June 12th respectively. Opinions on the Constitution of Japan were heard from 11 speakers who responded to an open invitation, and 15 members of the Commission including myself participated in presenting questions and comments. Opinions and comments from the floor were also heard from eight persons during the hearings.
Needless to say, the Constitutions belongs to the people. However, I cannot help but say that Japan has taken a rather easy way of interpreting the Constitution through virtual revision, without squarely confronting many issues whose constitutionality is under doubt. Among them are the issue that arose immediately after the war, of private school subsidies involving Article 89 which prohibits the Government from appropriating public funds for private institutions that are not under the control of public authority, and; the pay cut for judges introduced last year in relation to Articles 79 and 80 that prohibit the decrease of judges' compensation.
The Research Commission on the Constitution, established in the highest organ of state power, is a unique and most suitable institution where we can discuss such contentious issues from the constitutional viewpoints and with high and broad perspectives. I think it a work of great importance for Diet Members, representatives of the people, to talk from the variety of standpoints that they hold in order to seek common ground.
We have conducted broad and comprehensive investigations into the Constitution of Japan for three and a half years while holding firm to the three principles: respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will not revert to being an aggressor country.
The total time spent on research amounts to well over 310 hours including the work of the subcommittees. The number of informants invited during this period is 89. The research period of the Commission which is regarded as approximately five years has just a year and half to go. We would like to conduct substantive research on the remainder of the tasks. In particular, national issues of high interest such as social security including public pensions, medical services and welfare, as well as the introduction of e-government with regard to the Constitution, demand a lot of research. I hope such specific items will continue to be investigated in the next Diet after discussions in the Directors' meeting.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Deputy Chairman, subcommittee chairpersons, Directors, those who attended meetings as observers, and the Commission members for valuable guidance and cooperation. Without them, we would never have been able to proceed with our operation of the Commission in such an equitable and smooth manner. I would like to conclude my speech by expressing my thanks and hoping for continued support and cooperation from every one of you.
I would like to take this occasion to say a few words.
This Commission was established on January 20, 2000, for the purpose of making broad and comprehensive research into the Constitution of Japan. We started with research into the formative process of the Constitution, followed by the major postwar judgments of unconstitutionality. Then we moved to examining the ideal form of Japan in the 21st century. Since the 154th session of the National Diet, we have established four subcommittees to work on specific themes and now are in the midst of research that covers the Preamble and all 103 articles of the Constitution of Japan.
In our research of the formative process of the Constitution, taking in a series of historical facts related to its enactment, I believe that the members of the Commission have come to share a common understanding regardless of their evaluation of these facts. In examining the major judicial decisions on unconstitutionality, we elucidated the postwar system of judicial review of constitutionality as well as its actual operation in Japan. We felt that the judicial review system of unconstitutionality left a lot for further study. When we made our exhaustive research into the ideal form of Japan in the 21st century in the Commission as well as through specialized and effective discussions in the subcommittees, we looked at the theme from various perspectives. They ranged from the domestic and international matters which have a great influence on Japan's security and international cooperation, to the advancement of science and technology which greatly affects the guarantee of basic human rights, just to name a few.
Since the 156th session of the National Diet, we have conducted, in addition to consolidating the contents of our study, extensive research making use of various forms of investigation such putting emphasis on the discussion process in each subcommittee. In the Commission itself, we conducted discussion based on the results of the subcommittees' work as well as holding free discussions on current issues from constitutional standpoints.
In the 155th session of the National Diet we passed about the midway point of the research period of the Commission, which was envisioned as approximately five years. Accordingly, we put together an Interim Report comprising the outline of the Commission's research activities as well as an objective compilation of discussion based on the chapters and articles of the Constitution. The report was submitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on November 1, 2002.
Our research was extended to fields whose discussion we had hitherto avoided such as the emperor system and Article 9. I believe that research into these fields has been conducted quietly and earnestly throughout the sessions. In my observation of our repeated deliberations, some issues such as the continuance of the emperor-as-symbol system have evinced collective consensus among the political parties, whereas other issues have remained divided with differing opinions. In any case, I am very pleased that the Commission has considerably deepened the discussion on the Constitution.
On top of the research of the Commission and the subcommittees, we have conducted research into the constitutional situation in other countries by sending delegations of our Diet Members every year on overseas missions, four times to date. We have actually visited 17 countries and have investigated the constitutions of 27 countries in total. They are Western European countries such as the monarchies and neutral countries such as Switzerland which has maintained its own policy of neutrality; Russia and Eastern European countries which belonged to the former communist bloc; Israel that is situated in the Middle East; Southeast Asian countries, our neighbors such as the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, and the North American countries which I mentioned in my report just a while ago.
I got the impression that those countries, against the backdrop of changing international society and the domestic circumstances facing each nation, are amending their constitutions in response to changing situations, as the occasion arose through national dialogue after arguments on constitutional revision have been presented to the citizens.
Constitutional courts instituted in many countries gave us many insights not only on their importance in the judicial review of the constitutionality of laws and regulations through checks and balances of powers, but on the way they function as the last resort for the guarantee of human rights by receiving appeals directly from citizens for help in safeguarding their rights.
We also looked into the issue of the popular election of the prime minister in Israel, one of our overseas research objectives. We learned about how it was introduced and later abolished, how it was evaluated, and this research led to lively discussions in the Commission. This issue, in connection with its relationship with the Diet, the emperor system and other governing frameworks, requires a great amount of consideration from broad perspectives. Accordingly, our overriding conclusion seems to be that we should take a cautious or negative stance on this issue.
Within Japan as well, we conducted public hearings to hear opinions on the Constitution from people in all walks of life in eight cities, leaving the Chugoku region the only part of Japan that is yet to host a public hearing.
Needless to say, the Constitution belongs to the people. However, I have to say that Japan has opted for finding solutions through interpretation of the Constitution, in dealing with many issues that are constitutional. Among them are the relation between the Self-Defense Forces and Article 9; the issue that arose immediately after the war, of private school subsidies involving Article 89 which prohibits the Government from appropriating public funds for private institutions that are not under the control of public authority; and the reduction of judges' salaries in relation to Articles 79 and 80 that prohibit the decrease of judges' compensation. Seen in the right perspective that we should secure the trust of the people in the Constitution, we should face the stipulations of the Constitution squarely with careful consideration for further debate.
The Research Commission on the Constitution, established in the highest organ of state power, is the most suitable forum where we can discuss such issues from constitutional viewpoints and with high and broad perspectives. I think it bears a great deal of significance that Diet Members, representatives of the people, talk from a variety of standpoints in order to seek common ground.
We have conducted broad and comprehensive investigations into the Constitution of Japan for three years and nine months while holding firm to the three principles: respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will not revert to being an aggressor country.
The total time spent on research amounts to well over 310 hours including the work of the subcommittees. The number of informants invited during this period is 89. The research period of the Commission which is regarded as approximately five years has just a year and three months left.
We would like to conduct substantive research on many remaining tasks. They include national issues of high interest such as social security including public pensions and burden sharing as well as the introduction of e-government, whose legal framework is under way, that accompanies the legal issues of privacy protection with regard to the Constitution. We also discussed today the conclusion of FTAs and the guarantee of regional security. We have many other issues that remain to be considered, which I hope will continue to be investigated in the next Diet session after discussions in the Directors' meeting.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Deputy Chairman, subcommittee chairpersons, Directors, those who attended meetings as observers, and all the Commission members for valuable guidance and cooperation. Without them, we would never have been able to proceed with our operation of the Commission in such an equitable and smooth manner. I would like to conclude by expressing my thanks and hoping for continued support and cooperation from every one of you.
I would like to take this occasion to say a few words.
As it stands now today is the final meeting we have for the Research Commission on the Constitution during the 159th Diet session.
During the current session we have continued our research, in particular through four subcommittees which we set up to carry out research that encompasses the Constitution's Preamble and all 103 articles and stipulations that we studied before.
Every month the main points of discussion in the subcommittees were reported by each subcommittee chairman to our main meeting, and all of the four subcommittees' discussions were lively and active.
The Commission itself made research into specific themes such as "The Constitution and the progress of science and technology" in addition to the reports from the subcommittee chairmen and the free discussions that followed.
Besides this, in order to hear views on the Constitution from the public in all walks of life to reflect public opinion in our future research, we held the ninth Open Hearing in Hiroshima on March 15, which concluded a round of hearings nationwide that started with the Open Hearing in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in April 2001. We also held two Open Hearings in Tokyo on May 12th and 13th.
The active and smooth manner in which we conducted our research during the current Diet session was made possible only by the enthusiasm and cooperation of the Commission's members. I am very grateful to you all.
Now that we are at the end of the Commission's research in the current Diet session that we have all taken part in together so actively, I as Chairman of the Commission would like to look back and make some comments, following a decision in the Directors' meeting of the Commission, on points that particularly impressed me during the course of our research.
One of the most impressive points I would like to mention first was the relationship between the Constitution and the progress of science and technology.
The progress of science and technology in the postwar years has been astounding. The progress in science and technology has not been confined to natural sciences alone, but has more conspicuously strengthened the possibility of having a serious impact on the national legal framework including the constitution of a nation.
For instance, in recent years a new field called gene technology, a field totally unforeseen at the time of the Constitution enactment, has now surfaced. With unpredictable harm to ethics and the environment from the misuse of cloning and genetic engineering technology, we need to recognize this problem as one which may inevitably have a serious bearing on the human dignity of an individual, the highest value upheld by the Constitution of Japan.
When taken in the specific context of a constitutional theme, the issue will become whether we should provide stipulations for what are called life ethics, as well as the right of access to the environment and the obligation to maintain the environment. In 1996, in fact, Dolly, a cloned sheep, was born in England; and within three years, the Swiss Federal Constitution was amended with a provision prohibiting human cloning.
Besides this, the rapid progress of information and communication technology has had a new impact on society in the form of innovative communication methods as seen in the launching of communications satellites, broadcasting satellites and others; and the global spread of the Internet. I fear that the recent murder of a pupil that involved the Internet use between her and her classmate in Sasebo was only on the fringe of this problem. Following that incident, there is an ongoing discussion on protection of the privacy of an individual and the people's right to know. Protecting the intellectual property rights that stem from high technology is also a pressing task to be tackled in countries throughout the world. More than forty countries have already put a provision relating to these fields in their constitutions.
Surely a legal system is building up measures gradually also in Japan in step with the progress of scientific technology as seen in the enactment of a Fundamental Law on Science and Technology, and preparations for establishing a Higher Court of intellectual property. However, although cases related to medical malpractice, pollution, and intellectual property rights brought to district courts now number about 1,700 per year, the number of judges with a background in science and technology capable of dealing with this kind of case is only eight among 3,000 or so throughout the nation's courts. This testifies to an insufficient number of personnel to uphold the system.
It was very significant that we conducted discussion from various viewpoints as to whether we should institute fundamental provisions in the Constitution to underpin the legal framework in line with the progress of science and technology, while seeking references in examples of other countries.
Another salient research item was that relating to Article 9 and international cooperation.
Spurred by the Gulf War Crisis in 1990 and its aftermath, vigorous discussions and questions centered on an ideal form of Japan's personnel contribution to international cooperation and Japan's inadequate preparation within its internal system.
The International Peace Cooperation Law was enacted in 1992, followed by the Law Concerning Measures to Deal with Situations surrounding Japan, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, and the Special Measures Law for Iraq. On each occasion of specific and concrete system designing, we discussed again and again how to interpret Article 9 involving a combined topic of the prohibition of collective defense exercises and military exercises in relation to the maximum extent of international cooperation possible under the present Constitution.
In the course of such discussions I believe that a debate will naturally emerge to determine whether fundamental differences should be stipulated in the basic law of the nation clearly without any doubt between what Japan as a nation under rule of law can accomplish in the international community and what it cannot. At the same time, the Commission members and other participants in its debates may have shared a common understanding about the political necessity of constitutional democracy based on a constitution regardless of what position they may take.
I have a question that is constantly in my mind about constitutionalism or the rule of law in conjunction with Article 9. The gap between constitutional stipulation and reality is not limited to Article 9 alone. As we previously discussed, there is the relation between private school subsidies and Article 89, which is often quoted as an example. And that is not the only one. Fore instance, today Ms. Moriyama referred to another anomaly, the reduction of judges' salaries in relation to Articles 79 and 80 that prohibit the decrease of judges' compensation. It may be possible that such disparities could be interpreted as not unconstitutional in the realm of scholars or bureaucrats, but is by no means a clear-cut interpretation that we can present to the people with whom sovereignty resides. Another reason for the constitutional interpretation and application that are difficult for the people to understand is negativism in the Supreme Court for constitutional judgement where a ruling is sought on state authority but the decision is not to the point.
I would like to point out my impression that constitutional interpretation and application that are difficult for the citizens to understand are in themselves a problem from the viewpoint of a country under the rule of law and constitutionalism. Moreover, constitutional application that the citizens find difficult to understand may usher in a lax attitude to norms among citizens as well as a lack of confidence in the Constitution. Isn't this a most serious problem? On the matter of amendments, we have another problem. The procedural law stipulated in Article 96 for amendment of the Constitution has been left unenacted for the past 60 years. That is to say, a law that was envisaged at the time of the constitutional drafting has not been put into force in the past 60 post-war years. Both sides arguing aggressively for and against enacting a procedural law for constitutional amendment made a deep impression on me.
Lastly I would like to say one thing about the discussions on the emperor system.
I felt that we never talked so extensively and at such length in this Commission about the emperor-as-symbol system which had been considered a taboo in the past. The discussion we had was most enthusiastic and to the point.
In the course of such discussion, I am convinced that the continuing existence of the emperor-as-symbol system per se is an issue which has no opponents among the political parties and groups. During the current Diet session one of the points we focused on was the female emperor issue that was talked about also today. This issue is being argued on whether it is a constitutional matter or a legal matter relating to the Imperial Household Law. This is in any case closely related to the emperor system where the emperor is the symbol of state, and deserves a continued discussion as an important theme in the future.
Those are my comments on the discussions held within the Commission during the current Diet session. Needless to say, the Commission as an institution established within the highest organ of sate power is a unique and most appropriate forum for discussing a wide range of domestic and international issues facing Japan in terms of constitutional points from broad and bird's-eye view perspectives. Diet Members as representatives of the citizens discuss from various standpoints, and, while respecting each other's different opinions, come to produce and share a common understanding; and this is an extremely important process.
While holding firm to the three principles of respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the pledge of not becoming an aggressor nation again, the Commission has conducted wide and comprehensive research on the Constitution. Little time is left of the five years or so that were allotted to our research. We would like to continue and exert our efforts in making a final report while upholding the three principles in future too. In my opinion, political parties and groups may have a great interest as to what kind of response that the Diet should take once the Commission finishes its research on the Constitution. Last but not least, I offer my most sincere gratitude to the Deputy Commission Chairman, subcommittee chairpersons, Commission directors and observers as well as all members of the Commission for your valuable advice and cooperation, thanks to which this Commission has been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth manner during the current session. And I would like ask once again for your continued cooperation. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
I would like to take this occasion to say a few words according to what has been agreed on by the Directors' meeting.
Today is the final meeting for the year of the Research Commission on the Constitution.
This year during the ordinary session of the National Diet, we continued our research through four subcommittees which we set up to carry out research that encompasses the Constitution's Preamble and all 103 articles and stipulations that we studied before. In the extraordinary session that followed the House of Councillors' election, we made a thematic study on the Constitution and heard from members of the parties that presented their own constitutional proposals, and had discussion among ourselves. In the current extraordinary session, we have conducted research on matters such as the results achieved by the Commission's mission sent overseas for research on the EU's Constitution Treaty and other matters.
During the previous ordinary session we held our 9th out-of-Tokyo Open Hearing, in Hiroshima; and in the previous and current sessions we conducted Open Hearings in Tokyo for a total of five days.
This year too, we were able to proceed smoothly and actively with our research thanks primarily to the enthusiasm and cooperation of the members of the Commission, for which I am deeply thankful.
The research we have rigorously pursued this year is coming to an end, and before we close this year's research, I would like to present my thoughts about several major topics which particularly impressed me greatly over the past year.
First, I was impressed by the research on the relationship between the Constitution and the advance of science and technology.
It has been increasingly apparent that the awesome advance of science and technology since the war has a potential significant impact on the legal system of a nation including its constitution. It is extremely difficult to predict what kind of detrimental effects on ethics and the environment would be brought about should the technological development of cloning and genetic engineering come into the wrong hands. This may ultimately mean that the dignity of individuals, the highest value upheld by the Constitution of Japan, could be gravely affected. It is also related with issues that call for constitutional stipulations for life ethics, environmental rights and the responsibility to safeguard the environment. Information and communication technology also made phenomenal progress which had radical effects on society. Together with this we discussed protection of the privacy of an individual, the people's right to know and other matters. Some held that basic stipulations should be incorporated in the Constitution to address the progress in science and technology. We made reference to similar examples in countries overseas, and covered a range of viewpoints in productive discussion.
We achieved similar fruitful research on the mechanism of oversight of the administrative branch. Our reason for dispatching a research mission overseas this year was to look into the actual conditions of the Ombudsman systems in Sweden and the European Union, underlining the importance of oversight. Looking back on our research, I find that it was no coincidence that countries of high public welfare and high national burden, as seen in northern Europe, have come to develop the Ombudsman system. It may have been due to national requirements that demand more control over the bigger government. There seemed to be a general consensus among the Commission members that we should carry out a more effective check on the executive institutions, also making use of the current Diet mechanism of oversight over administration.
We looked into security and international cooperation at length.
In the area of Japan's international cooperation, against the backdrop of the aftermath of the Gulf crisis in 1990, rigorous questions arose on our deficient domestic system for providing personnel contributions, and the ideal form of such contributions. The International Peace Cooperation Law was enacted in 1992, followed by the Law Concerning Measures to Deal with Situations surrounding Japan, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law, and the Special Measures Law for Iraq. On each occasion, the specific drafting of a concrete system kept returning to how Article 9 should be interpreted with respect to the possible extent of international cooperation that Japan could offer within the current Constitution.
In the course of such discussion claims were actively made that Japan, as a country governed by the rule of law, should stipulate clearly and without any room for doubt in its constitutional law the basics of what we can and cannot do in international society. Despite the pros and cons of such claims, our members have come to a common perception about what is required of a political system of constitutional democracy that is based on constitutional norms.
The divergence between constitutional norms and reality was noted not only in the issue of Article 9, but also in other typical issues such as private school subsidies in relation to Article 89 which prohibits the appropriation of public money to charitable, educational or benevolent enterprises not under the control of public authority; and the reduction of judges' compensation in relation to Articles 79 and 80 that bar the salary decrease of chief and other judges.
It may be possible to claim that such gaps are not unconstitutional, but such claims are hardly interpretations that the citizens, with whom sovereignty resides, can readily understand. Another reason for the difficulty of interpretation and application of the law on the part of the citizens is that the Supreme Court is conservative about constitutional review and authoritative judgments on constitutional issues have not been accurately obtained. Difficult interpretation and application of the law to the people would be problematic from the viewpoint of rule of law and constitutional governance for the nation. It would also run the risk of losing public confidence in the Constitution in the end. In my opinion, this poses the most significant challenge.
During our survey mission overseas, we were impressed to hear comments from legal experts that one of the foremost reasons why the European Union needs to enact its Constitutional Treaty is that the Union should have a closer interface with its citizens. Ambassador Bernhard Zepter, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan, echoed the same opinion when invited to our Subcommittee on Security and International Cooperation. He told that the reason they stipulated specific rights of the European people in the Constitution is because putting in such stipulations that the people can readily read and understand is intended to give and facilitate the feeling that the Constitution is their own. Both events underpin what I have always called for: the constitution remains the property of the people.
The system of the European Union is designed to deal with challenges common to the region through yielding part of the member countries' sovereignty. In its plenary meetings the Commission looked into the view that Japan too could enhance its ties with Asia and elsewhere by creating multi-faceted trade systems like concluding free trade agreements, or by forming regional security arrangements. This, of course, entails material issues of the Constitution such as how to treat the human rights of foreign residents in Japan, stemming from the fact that more people are moving across national boundaries.
I hear that just under ten countries were scheduled to put the EU Constitutional Treaty to a national referendum for its ratification. A national referendum incurs problems such as how the voting issues should be presented to the people, and that voting in a referendum could be wrongly interpreted by the voters as a nonconfidence vote against the government. Nonetheless, I am impressed to find that national referendums in Europe are functioning through the mechanism of getting a judgment directly from the people on what the state should do.
In Japan, meanwhile, a procedural law for making constitutional amendments in accordance with Article 96 is yet to be enacted. Hot discussion for and against amendment procedures took place on the fact that a piece legislation designed by the Constitution had failed to be used even some 60 years after the Constitution came into effect. This is one of the special features we had in this year's work.
The Open Hearing in Hiroshima witnessed a fruitful exchange of various views that nevertheless shared the common aspiration for peace. The Open Hearings in Tokyo heard many speakers, among them an ex-ambassador, witnesses of history, considerable scholars and young people. Opinions expressed from people in all walks of life contributed to further deepening the Commission's discussion. I would welcome a momentum to emerge among the people for discussing the Constitution more in future.
This year saw many natural disasters, for instance, Typhoon No. 23 (also known as Tokage) and the earthquake in Chuetsu, Niigata. Looking at these emergencies in the context of the German Basic Law, I feel it imperative to consider a systematic framework for dealing with natural disasters more appropriately.
I have given my opinions based on the discussions of the past year's research in the Commission. Needless to say, the Commission as an institution established within the highest organ of state power is a unique and most appropriate forum for discussing a wide variety of the domestic and international issues facing Japan in terms of constitutional points from a broad bird's-eye view. Diet Members as representatives of the citizens discuss from various standpoints, and, while respecting each other's different opinions, come to produce and share a common understanding; and this is an extremely important process.
While holding firm to the three principles of respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the pledge of not becoming an aggressor nation again, the Commission has conducted wide and comprehensive research on the Constitution. Very little time is left before the end of the five years or so that were allotted to our research. In the time that remains to us we would like to continue to exert our efforts to write a final report while upholding these three principles.
Last but not least, in concluding my remarks, I offer my most sincere gratitude to the Deputy Commission Chairman, Commission directors and observers and all the members of the Commission for your valuable advice and cooperation, thanks to which we have been able to proceed in such an equitable and smooth manner. I would like to ask you once again for your continued cooperation. Thank you very much.
I declare the meeting adjourned for today.
Statement on the Report of the Research Commission on the Constitution made by its Chairman to the House of Representatives
Speaker Yohei KONO: In reply to a request from the Chairman of the Research Commission on the Constitution to make a statement on the report submitted to me as House Speaker on April 15, I grant permission. Please take the podium, Chairman NAKAYAMA.
Chairman NAKAYAMA: On April 15, 2005 the Research Commission on the Constitution put together its report containing the researches so far conducted and their results, and on the same day submitted the report to Speaker KONO.
I take this opportunity to inform you of this Report including the submission procedures and to give you an outline of the Report.
First, the gist of the Report is that many voices were heard calling for changes to be made in the present Constitution in express terms in not a few Articles or Chapters, while maintaining its basic principles. For we need to resolve the gap between the Constitution and the realities that have come into being during the past 58 years since its enactment, as well as to deal with changes that have taken place.
In other words, many opinions were first expressed that we should continue to maintain the basic three principles of the Constitution as well as the emperor-as-symbol system. Then, as regards the right to self defense and the Self-Defense Forces, many opinions were expressed admitting that constitutional measures should be taken in one way or another. In areas of people's rights and duties, many opinions were expressed in favor of specifically stipulating environmental rights and several new human rights. Amendment of the Constitution by clearly changing the text was also thought necessary and favored by many for the establishment of a Constitutional Court, support to private educational institutions, strengthened and consolidated local government, and crisis management.
It is particularly worth mentioning that many expressed opinions in favor of constitutional amendment by changes in the text in regard to many of the above-mentioned issues, although some of the issues that underwent discussion in the Commission could surely be dealt with by legislation under the existing Constitution.
This Research Commission was established in the House of Representatives at the first meeting of its session, for the purpose of conducting broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution of Japan, on January 20, 2000, when the 147th National Diet was convoked.
On the first day of its establishment the Commission set to work immediately and carried out exhaustive research for over 450 hours in the period of five years and three months up to April 15, 2005. On November 1, 2002, the Commission put together an Interim Report which was submitted to House Speaker Tamisuke WATANUKI on the same day.
The final Report, when put to vote in the House on April 15, 2005, won a majority comprising the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Club of Independents and New Komeito, against the opposition of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. It was submitted to House Speaker Yohei KONO on the same day.
The Report includes Part 1 Background to the Establishment of the Commission, Part 2 Purpose, Organization, and Operation of the Commission, Part 3 Progress and Contents of Research Conducted by the Research Commission on the Constitution, and Part 4 Reference Material. The core part of this Report is Chapter 3 of Part 3, which summarizes the research contents of the Commission.
This Chapter is a fair compilation based on the themes of discussion in the Commission over five years and three months, following in principle the order of the chapters and articles of the Constitution, with various statements and opinions of Commission members, informants and others, without favoring any viewpoints. At the same time we noted in the Report often-expressed views and particular opinions.
Such a compilation is appropriate and necessary from the view of fulfilling our responsibilities to show to the people in a correct and understandable manner what discussions were held over five years and three months in the Commission.
Next, I would like to mention several characteristic issues out of the discussions described in the Report.
The first is the relationship between the Constitution and the progress of science and technology.
The astounding progress of science and technology in the postwar years can have a serious impact on the national legal framework. For instance, a new field called gene technology, a field totally unforeseen at the time of the Constitution enactment, has now surfaced. With unpredictable harm to ethics and the environment from the misuse of cloning and genetic engineering technology, we need to recognize this problem as one which will inevitably have a serious bearing on the human dignity of the individual, the highest value upheld by the Constitution of Japan.
In the advanced information society there is an increasingly more urgent need for individual privacy to be protected, as the public's right to know is often debated. It is hard to assess the impact of the progress of information technology and communication upon social and legal systems.
Since the Industrial Revolution, mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal brought about by the progress of production technology, automation of assembly lines and the like have been destroying the environment of the social system. The destruction includes water contamination, air pollution and soil contamination, extending the impact on the ecosystem. Even today every year Japan has about one hundred and fifty lawsuits concerning pollution. Against this backdrop the constitutional debate about environmental rights or environmental protection rights has come into focus.
The actual number of judges with a background in science and technology capable of dealing with specialized cases related to technological progress is only eight among 3,000 or so throughout the nation's courts. This points to a shortage of personnel to uphold the system, and was discussed in our research.
In security, too, there is pivotal change in the national security sphere surrounding our country. Under these circumstances the concept of security has greatly changed from national to regional and human security, forcing Japan to adopt various measures in both security and international cooperation. In the Commission many views and opinions about this were presented.
When we look at domestic changes, we witness in recent years the growing number of vicious juvenile crimes and Japan's lowered academic standards in comparison with those of other countries. I am aware that there are voices calling for the review of constitutional issues, particularly education such as the review of the Basic Law on Education. With the advent of an aging society of fewer children, the burden and benefits of social security are taking on more significance. Besides, ties with Asia are getting increasingly more intertwined as multilateral trade takes shape through the conclusion of free trade and other agreements accompanied by the establishment of regional security. This eventually results in more foreigners migrating into and working in Japan along with the pressing need for the protection of their human rights. Controversy around this issue arose from many Commission members.
Another salient characteristic in constitutional discussion is how to deal with the gap between the Constitution and reality, which is not confined to the Article 9 issue and the relation between private school subsidies and Article 89. A typical example is that although Articles 79 and 80, which prohibit the decrease of Supreme Court and other judges' compensation, their salaries were reduced twice. Other problems include the fact that constitutional stipulations are not put into practice.
Another reason why constitutional interpretation and application are difficult for the people to understand is negativism in the Supreme Court toward constitutional judgement where a ruling is sought on state authority but the decisions handed down are not to the point. In my view, this could be a significant problem that may possibly usher in a breakdown of public trust in the Constitution.
We also conducted our overseas research five times, in which we heard explanations from the countries we visited which had undergone several amendments to their constitutions. In the overseas research mission of 2001 we went to Israel to conduct research on the popular election of the prime minister there. We learned in great detail about how it was introduced and later abolished, and how it was evaluated. This research led to lively discussions in the Commission. I would like to comment on this issue that many expressed opinions, based on the overseas research results, that Japan should not introduce the popular election of the prime minister.
Last year the overseas research mission gave us an impressive insight into constitutional enactment. Legal experts in Europe told us that one of objectives of the European Union's Constitutional Treaty enactment was to ensure that European citizens could be at the direct front of the enactment procedure. I felt that this struck a similar chord in our Commission's belief under which the Commission has been administered for the past five years and three months. That is, the Constitution which always belongs to the people should be discussed always from the viewpoint of the whole people, neither ruling nor opposition.
In this respect the Commission sought to hear opinions extensively from the people through Open Hearings of five days in Tokyo in addition to nine regional cities throughout Japan. Under the recognition that the Constitution belongs to the people, opinions were sought from those who volunteered to speak at Open Hearings in Tokyo or regional cities in matters such as what Japan or the Constitution should be.
The Open Hearings in Okinawa and Hiroshima made a particularly deep impression upon us.
We renewed our recognition that Okinawa paid a truly heavy sacrifice in which about one hundred and twenty thousand residents of Okinawa lost their lives engulfed in the ground battles which were the only ones in Japan.
In the general election of the House of Representatives held on April 10, 1946, the people of Okinawa were barred from exercising their right to vote in the election and were kept from sending their prefectural representatives to a new National Diet that was scheduled to draft the Constitution. Okinawa, separated from the Government of Japan through the memorandum of administration separation, did not come under the Constitution of Japan because of the direct military administration of the United States forces until April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty went into force.
Even after the coming into force of the Peace Treaty, the people in Okinawa were placed under the administration of the United States in accordance with Article 3 of the Treaty. Despite the interpretation that the potential sovereignty of Japan exists on Okinawa, the people were kept from the effective application of the Japanese Constitution and were under the indirect rule of the local government that was established under the US civil administration.
The islands had to wait to come under the Constitution of Japan until May 15, 1972, when Okinawa reverted to Japan.
A Commission on the Constitution established by the cabinet in 1957 also conducted open hearings in 46 prefectures and metropolitan areas, but not on Okinawa which was yet to be returned to Japan. Even now, US military bases concentrated in Okinawa are a heavy burden on the local people.
A look back on the islands' history made it even more important to hold an Open Hearing about the Constitution of Japan on Okinawa's soil.
An Open Hearing was also held in Hiroshima, where many lives were lost in an instant in the atomic bombing. We were able to hear opinions from people of various viewpoints, but sharing the common wish for peace, including hibakusha, victims of atomic bombs, making the forum all the more significant.
In this manner for the past five years and three months since its inception, the Commission conducted its broad and comprehensive research on the Constitution from the standpoint of the whole people while adhering to the principles of respect for human rights, popular sovereignty, and the solemn affirmation that Japan will never be an aggressor country.
The activities of the Commission include the translation of its meeting digests into English and posting of the translations on the House web site, besides the complete translation of the Interim Report that I mentioned before. Copies of the Report's translation were distributed to national governments and parliamentary libraries overseas.
Now that we mark the 58th anniversary since the Constitution's enactment, Japan looks totally different when we compare then and now. In August 1945 Japan made an unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers by accepting the Potsdam Declaration. In March 1946 the Government of Japan, which was under the Occupation and the indirect rule of General Headquarters with the de facto supreme power, announced its "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution" based on the constitutional draft of the GHQ. The House of Representatives, dissolved since December 1945, managed to hold a general election in April 1946 despite many measures such as an official purge of certain people including incumbent Diet Members from holding public office. The 90th Imperial Diet convoked after the general election saw the submission of the amendment bill of the Constitution of Imperial Japan. The bill incorporated the articles of the "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution." The bill that went through modification passed the House of Representatives with 421 votes for the bill against eight votes including six of the Japanese Communist Party members. The House of Peers too modified the bill and passed it with a big majority. In this way, full and meticulous deliberations had been conducted in the House of Representatives and the House of Peers. As a result of these measures, the Constitution of Japan was promulgated on November 3, 1946, and went into effect on May 3, 1947.
In those days society was inundated with orphans on the burnt-out fields everywhere, many of whom were left to themselves after losing parents in air raids. Many returnees from overseas had to live in disease-ridden towns with no home to get back to. The economy was in a shambles with rampant inflation. Japan was, to borrow an ancient phrase, a vanquished nation that has rivers and mountains still to behold with castle remnants covered with growing weeds and trees.
Many new issues that were not forecast at the time of constitutional enactment have since come to surface one after another. Meanwhile, Japan through her toils and efforts has gained membership of the G-7 nations. I keenly feel that there is urgent need to hold discussions with a firm and long perspective on the Constitution to deal with these new issues.
I believe that, on the submission of this Report which we might call a total compilation of the research made to date, the debate in our country on the Constitution will enter a new phase.
One of the constitutional debates is about the procedural law, stipulated in Article 96 for amendment of the Constitution, that has been left unenacted for the past 60 years. Some voiced an opinion that such failure to enact the law envisaged at the time of the constitutional drafting was tantamount to a restriction of the sovereign right of the people regarding the Constitution. Others said that it was the negligence of legislators.
In regard to a national referendum on constitutional amendments, Mr. EDANO and Mr. NAKAGAWA of the Democratic Party of Japan made the following statement in the February 17 meeting of the Commission. "Parties that have the will to run the country, whether in power or opposition, should proceed in future to make a consensus on defining common rules in constitutional stipulation for administering the nation. We hope that a bill on a national referendum for constitutional amendment will be enacted at an early date with the far reaching will of the Diet. We are willing to consult with other political parties about this." In the February 24 meeting of the same forum, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito made a statement concurring with the Democratic Party's call. I would also like to report here that many opinions were expressed in support of a national referendum law of constitutional amendment to be put into enactment at an earlier date.
I would like to offer my tribute of deep gratitude not only to the current Commission members but to the present and former Deputy Commission Chairmen, former Commission members who are sitting in this plenary session, and other former Members who have left the House for various reasons. Their efforts have made possible the successful compilation of the Report. The Report contains the lively breath of both the present and past Commission members, to whom I reiterate my thanks as Chairman of the Commission.
At the same time I am keenly aware of the need to continue deepening the discussion in future on the Constitution in the Diet, which is the representative institution of the people.
With this, I end my speech on the Report.
Thank you very much.