Japanese government restarts construction of the Takae helipads, resulting in stand-off with residents

Japanese government restarts construction of the Takae helipads, resulting in stand-off with residents

The stand-off between Okinawa Defense Bureau staff members and local residents over the recommencement of construction continued in the afternoon of November 15 at Takae in Higashi Village


November 16, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

On the morning of November 15, the Okinawa Defense Bureau recommenced the construction of the new helipads at Takae in Higashi Village in keeping with the partial return of the U.S. Northern Training Area. Takae residents and civic groups staged sit-in protest in front of the gate. Although heavy equipment was not brought in, survey work of the area was carried out.

With regard to the vehicles that civic groups and a political party have parked in front of the gate since the end of June in order to prevent the construction, Nago Police Station issued a warning to the people, saying, “Parking in front of a gateway is a violation of the Road Traffic Law.” This is the first warning by the police.

According to the residents, Okinawa Defense Bureau staff members and construction workers arrived at the area around 10:18am. They moved a loading shovel towards the gate, but could not get it into the area because of the protest. Workers only went as far as conducting a survey of the area. Just a few people were in front of the gate to begin with, but about 40 to 50 people rushed to the scene following the arrival of the Defense Bureau staff.

In front of the gate, Defense Bureau staff repeated, “Please let us start the construction,” while residents responded, “Let’s discuss this,” and “Please do not start the construction.” The stand-off continued as staff members of the Defense Bureau videotaped the residents’ protest.

Masatsugu Isa from the Residents Association Against the Helipad Construction said, “I don’t understand why they look to restart the construction at this time. I think that they are trying to show the Japanese government that they are doing something on the construction.” Construction workers had previously not visited the site in the nine months since February.

(English Translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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