|Imamura At Diet Thursday|
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismissed opposition calls Thursday for the resignation of the disaster reconstruction minister, Masahiro Imamura, over remarks implying Fukushima evacuees yet to return to parts of the prefecture deemed safe to live in should fend for themselves.
Masahiro Imamura had been defending at a Tuesday press conference the central government’s decision to delegate help for the “voluntary evacuees” from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster when he said it is such people’s “own responsibility, their own choice” not to return.
“I want him to continue to be alongside those affected by the disaster and devote every effort to his duties with the aim of realizing reconstruction as soon as possible,” Abe said during a plenary session of the House of Representatives.
Earlier Thursday, Imamura, 70, apologized for “causing a nuisance to everyone” at a session of the lower house committee on reconstruction from the 2011 disaster.
Housing subsidies ran out last month for people who left areas other than government-designated zones around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
At the Japanese Lower House of the Diet on Thursday Imamura said “Prime Minister Abe said I should apologize that I used a disparaging word and gave the impression that (the evacuees) are responsible for their own (return) despite the fact that they are displaced because of the nuclear disaster, and I deeply apologize,” Imamura said.
Kazuko Kori, a lawmaker from the main opposition Democratic Party the recovering area of northeastern Japan, had called for Imamura to resign because “we cannot discuss reconstruction under this minister.”
Many in the Diet have dismissed Imamura's aplogy as being nothing more than "Abe told me to, so that is the sole reason I am apologizing".
But Imamura vowed to “keep performing my duties in good faith.”
Imamura had aggressively lashed out at the reporter who had asked him the question on Tuesday, yelling “shut up” at the reporter during the press conference. He offered a brief apology the same day for having “become emotional.”
He said Thursday he is willing to apologize to the reporter, “if Prime Minister Abe said it is necessary.”
The lower house reconstruction committee is currently debating a proposal to reform a special law relating to the 2011 disaster that would see the state pay for cleanup efforts in the areas of Fukushima still too contaminated with radioactivity to live in.
Imamura has been in his post since a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.