Nippon Ishin Punishes Lawmaker for Remark on Wishma Sandamali

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) said Friday that it has decided to suspend the party membership of House of Councillors lawmaker Mizuho Umemura for six months for her controversial remarks on Wishma Sandamali, who died in an immigration facility in 2021.

The membership suspension is the third heaviest of the party’s eight forms of punishment.

At a meeting of the Upper House Committee on Judicial Affairs on May 16, Umemura said that the death of the Sri Lankan woman may have been caused by a deterioration in her health condition due to a hunger strike.

Amid criticism of the remark, Nippon Ishin removed Umemura from the Upper House committee, and the party’s ethics committee has been considering a penalty for Umemura.

Explaining the punishment for her, Nippon Ishin Secretary-General Fumitake Fujita told a press conference on Friday that she had disobeyed the party’s instructions and made the remark.

Umemura herself has claimed that what she said was not a false rumor and has refused to retract the remark in question.

Wishma died at the age of 33 in the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau in central Japan. Her family has sued the Japanese government, claiming that she died because she was not given proper medical care despite her medical complaints.

Her two sisters were in the gallery at Friday’s meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee.

Speaking to them, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered his condolences and said, “I want the Justice Ministry to take thorough improvement measures, so a similar case never happens again.”

During the meeting, Kishida was asked whether there was any problem with the immigration facility’s handling of the case. He replied that he could not comment on details, citing the ongoing lawsuit.