諫早開門問題 司法判断だけでは解決できぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 15, 2013
Isahaya issue cannot be solved solely with judicial decisions
諫早開門問題 司法判断だけでは解決できぬ(11月14日付・読売社説)

Another layer of confusion has been added to the issue concerning the Isahaya Bay land reclamation project in Nagasaki Prefecture. We think it is impossible to solve the problem with only judicial judgments.

The Nagasaki District Court has decided to issue a provisional injunction to the government to stop the planned opening of floodgates of a dike built in the bay.

 The court has judged it is highly probable agriculture and fisheries will suffer damage if the floodgates were to be opened. The court therefore ruled in favor of parties who filed a suit, including farmers, who oppose a government study that would involve opening the floodgates.

It is a conclusion in direct opposition to the one made by the Fukuoka High Court in December 2010. The high court ordered the government to open the floodgates for five years to investigate what impact it could have on fisheries in the area. The high court decision has already been finalized.

It is natural for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to have commented on the matter, “It is an extremely difficult situation as we are charged with two [conflicting] obligations: ‘We must open the gates’ or ‘We must not open the gates.’”

Because judges base their decisions on the advantages and disadvantages to parties in a lawsuit from evidence submitted, the interests of parties not directly involved in the lawsuit are not taken into consideration.

In cases in which the interests of farmers and fishermen are intricately intertwined with multiple lawsuits underway—as can be seen with the Isahaya issue—conflicting judicial conclusions are sometimes drawn according to evidence submitted to courts.

Political settlement desirable

As a result, judicial rulings will fall short of fully solving the issue. Therefore, we believe it is desirable to settle the Isahaya Bay issue politically rather than through judicial rulings.

However, thorough preparations and coordination are indispensable to politically solve the problem. After the Fukuoka High Court’s ruling in 2010, then Prime Minister Naoto Kan decided not to appeal the high court decision to the Supreme Court although he had not sufficiently examined the impact of opening the floodgates and other factors.

“I have my own knowledge on this issue,” Kan stressed, but he was ultimately unable to point the problem toward a final settlement. Instead, his actions have invited distrust against the politics of parties involved in the issue.

If the government had appealed the high court ruling to the top court, there was a possibility the issue could have ended with a court-mediated settlement. Even if such a settlement was not made, there might have been a different development in the issue’s history if the Supreme Court had handed down its decision on the issue, because top court decisions strongly influence subsequent decisions in trials at lower courts regarding similar cases.

The Fukuoka High Court-ordered deadline to begin the floodgate-opening study, Dec. 20, is now approaching. With the Nagasaki court’s decision, it is unlikely for the government to start the investigation by the date. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must do its best to reach out to parties involved in this issue, such as local governments, fishermen and farmers, to find a compromise.

The Isahaya Bay land reclamation project has been regarded as a prime example of a “public works project that cannot be stopped once it has started.” The initial purpose of the project was to create an increase in food production. However, even if the government shifted its policy to reducing rice fields, the project would continue under the pretext of disaster management or securing a water resource.

We suspect the government underestimated the impact of the project on fishermen and farmers as it placed too much priority on simply keeping the project moving. The major lesson from the issue of the Isahaya Bay land reclamation project is how important it is to obtain the understanding of the parties involved.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 14, 2013)
(2013年11月14日01時46分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-11-16 06:57 | 英字新聞

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