[Editorial]New Okinawan governor: stop the construction of new U.S.military base

November 17, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

Takeshi Onaga’s win in the Okinawa gubernatorial election has once again solidly demonstrated Okinawan people’s will against the construction of new U.S. base. The former Mayor of Naha Takeshi Onaga, 64, has re-stated his promise to oppose the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago, where the governments of Japan and United States plan to build a new replacement offshore air base, after winning the Okinawa gubernatorial election. Onaga defeated incumbent Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, 75, who promoted the plan, with the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his party. He also defeated another two independent candidates. Onaga won by a margin of about 100,000 votes. Through Onaga’s landslide victory, Okinawan people have demonstrated that they will decide what matters to them and make their own choices, and they have expressed their opposition to the construction of a new military base to the Japanese and U.S.governments.

We hope that Onaga will do his best to solve U.S.military base issues, including the Henoko relocation, by penetrating the Japanese government’s hard-line stance .

Okinawan people’s will must be respected

Forcing Okinawa, which hosts 74 percent of the U.S. military facilities in Japan, to accept a new base against its will, amounts to a denial of Okinawan people’s dignity. The Japanese government cannot be allowed to do this.

As a civilian movement enabled Okinawan people to win the election for the Chief Executive of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands under the U.S. military administration in 1968, this gubernatorial election asked whether or not Okinawan people would regain their dignity and pride.

Many Okinawan people felt Nakaima’s approval of the Henoko landfill hurt their dignity and pride.

The conservatives have split in this election, with Onaga opposing the Henoko relocation despite conservative support for it. This reflected the bi-partisan nature of the thoughts and feelings of a wide range of Okinawan people on the base issues.

This election is historically important because Okinawan people were determined to make a choice to regain their deteriorating morale and dignity.

The Japanese government clearly stated that they would carry out the Henoko landfill regardless of the election results. However, the Japanese government, which governs a democratic nation, is not allowed to do that.

Although the central government seems to think that Nakaima’s approval of the Henoko landfill gained agreement from the local citizens, it is wrong.

Nakaima became Okinawan governor by pledging to move the Futenma Air Station outside of Okinawa.

Okinawan people do not support the current governor’s switch to promoting the Henoko relocation.

Basically, most of the Okinawan people do not accept the Henoko relocation.
The Japanese government should sincerely accept the result of the gubernatorial election, in which the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relocation issue was the major issue.

The Abe administration should give up the relocation plan, because it said it would work with Okinawan people. If the U.S government takes such a strong stance on democracy, it cannot ignore public opinion.

In the Nago Mayoral election, incumbent Susumu Inamine who pledged to prevent
the new base from being built in Henoko, was re-elected this January.

Nevertheless, the central government started forcing through the construction. It is clear that the government aimed to make Okinawan people feel powerless by making it seem as though the base’s construction was done deal to be taken for granted.

However, this failed to make Okinawan people shrink back.
It has further strengthened their position of opposing the construction of the new base.

It was made evident by the fact that many Okinawan people voted to refuse relocation of the base within the prefecture.

Support needed from Okinawan people

The U.S.military plans to build new helipads at Takae in Higashi Village in disregard of the opposition of the local residents.

As part of his strong stance against the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey to Okinawa, Onaga also opposes the construction of the helipads at Takae.

We would like Onaga to stop the construction. The 41 heads of the municipalities in Okinawa went to Tokyo and handed a petition to Abe requesting the easing of the base-hosting burden. They also demanded the U.S. and Japanese governments close and remove Futenma Air Station, and locate any replacement facility outside of Okinawa. The cancellation of the deployment of the Osprey to Okinawa was also requested in the petition. We would like Onaga to do his best to work on realizing what the petition demanded.

We now approach a critical stage of solving the base issues. In order to penetrate the Japanese government’s hard-line stance in forcing Okinawa to bear the burden of hosting the bulk of the U.S. military presence, Onaga needs further support from the Okinawan people. In working towards what the petition demanded, Okinawan people need to unite to appeal for co-operation on the base issues, and fully support Onaga.

There are many issues that need to be solved, other than the base issues.

Onaga plans to promote an independent economy based on peace including an economic strategy focusing on trade with Asian countries, increase regular employees, eliminate “childcare waiting lists” in certified day-care centers within four years, and make the cost of medical care free for children. Through these policies, Onaga aims to make Okinawan people’s lives more affluent.

We would like Onaga to implement his policy pledges by using the administrative skills that kept him in office as Naha Mayor for 14 years, and the political strength and leverage he has gained working in the Naha City Assembly and Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. Okinawan people want a peaceful and prosperous society.

We look forward to Onaga assuming the leadership role for the prefecture, as he faces the future with the Okinawa people, and works on the tasks entrusted to him.

(English translation by T&CT)

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