JCG officer: “If a protester dies, I’ll let you know”

May 1, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Japanese government is carrying out offshore construction activity as part of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago. On April 28, a ship carrying protesters against the new base was capsized. One of the citizens was immediately taken to hospital. The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) officer who appeared to be in charge of the scene, said, “I will let you know if he dies.” The officer also said, “If the man has died, it is because he accidentally drowned.” Several bystanders confirmed the officer’s remarks. A spokesperson of the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters said, “We cannot confirm whether or not the officer made such remarks.” It is unclear why the officer made the remarks. However, protesters reacted angrily to the way in which the officer seemed to casually talk about the life and death of a man who had been taken to hospital.

A college student Nozomi Kataoka, who was on the capsized boat, was held on the JCG’s inflatable raft. When Kataoka asked after health of the man who was taken to hospital, the officer said, “He seemed to be unconscious. I will let you know again if he dies.” Kataoka said, “I was surprised the officer spoke so lightly about the life and death of the man.”

Osaka resident Takaaki Hirota and Nago resident Joe Goto heard other remarks from the same officer when they were held on the surveillance boat Muribushi. The officer said, “The man was in huge trouble. He might have drowned. He is unconscious.” According to Hirota, the officer said this with a grim look. On April 29, when protesters asked the officer about these remarks, he did not answer. Goto said, “I felt ridiculed.”

The man who was taken to hospital later described how he had been pulled onto the JCG’s inflatable raft after his own boat was capsized. Although he had difficulty breathing and was unable to speak, he was conscious. As far as he remembered, the officer who confirmed he was conscious, said, “I confirm the man is conscious,” before passing the information onto other JCG officers.

Previously, JCG officers have allegedly made abusive remarks against other protesters in Oura Bay. On March 4, one officer said to the captain of a protesting boat, “You, bastard, Naichar (person from mainland Japan).” On May 15, another officer told a protester in a kayak, “You, criminal, get out (of the restricted area).”

(English translation by T&CT)

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