Okinawan lawmaker Itokazu appeals to UN to end Henoko base construction

Okinawan lawmaker Itokazu appeals to UN to end Henoko base construction

Keiko Itokazu

August 21, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

On August 20, Keiko Itokazu, a member of the Upper House and leader of the Okinawa Social Mass Party, took part in a UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held at Geneva in Switzerland. She called for the immediate cessation of the construction of a new base in Henoko, Nago, and helipads in Takae, Higashi, which are partly a relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Itokazu presented in traditional Okinawan dress and reported on the current situation at Henoko, saying; “The Japanese government and the Okinawa Defense Bureau are continuing to use private security companies, riot police, and the coast-guard to suppress the many citizens who are raising their voices in protest.” She asserted the forcible construction of military bases on Okinawa is “a deliberate ignoring of human rights and discrimination against the people of Ryukyu.” This is the first time an elected congresswoman from Okinawa has made a “direct appeal” to the United Nations.

Upon being given the chance to speak by the Committee, Itokazu appealed for the UN’s involvement in what she raised as urgent issues. The four issues were: The protection of the will and dignity of the Ryukyuan people; Ending the crackdown on residents protesting for the revocation of the plan to build a new military base in Henoko; The immediate closure and withdrawal of Futenma Air Station; and the immediate termination and revocation of the plan to build helipads in Takae.

A committee member asked how Okinawans are different from the Japanese in language and culture in response to claims by the Japanese government that the people of Okinawa and the Japanese are the same. Itokazu answered by pointing out that the Ryukyus have had 500 years of history as an independent nation, and that the Ryukyuan language is recognized as a language in its own right by UNESCO.

(English translation by T&CT and Lima Tokumori)

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