National government files new lawsuit against Okinawa, bringing Henoko issue back to court

National government files new lawsuit against Okinawa, bringing Henoko issue back to court

Naha District Legal Affairs Bureau employees surrounded by reporters after the national government filed a lawsuit asking the court to confirm the illegality of the Okinawa prefectural government’s alleged negligence at 9:01 a.m. on July 22 at the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court in Higawa, Naha City

July 22, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo Digital Edition

In the conflict over the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago City as part of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the central government files a lawsuit against the Okinawa prefectural government shortly before 9 a.m. on July 22, arguing that it was illegal for Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga not to comply with a rectification order from the national government demanding that he reinstate the Henoko land reclamation permit he had nullified. The lawsuit, filed with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court, seeks recognition from the court of the illegality of the governor’s alleged negligence. Previously, the national and prefectural governments had reached an out-of-court settlement in a previous lawsuit in which the national government had sued the prefectural government in order to be able to execute the land reclamation authorization by proxy. They are now clashing again in court after a respite of over four months. Confrontation between the national government and the prefectural government, which was calling for a solution based on dialogue, is sure to deepen.

Just before 9 a.m. on July 22, two employees of the Naha District Legal Affairs Bureau submitted the complaint to the Naha branch of the High Court amidst a throng of reporters.

In accordance with the Local Autonomy Law, the first oral hearing will be held in early August. The presiding judge is expected to be Toshiro Tamiya, the same judge who facilitated a settlement in the proxy execution lawsuit. The court will deliberate on the legality of the government’s rectification order and the prefecture’s nullification of the reclamation permit.

In response to an appeal by the Okinawa prefectural government, the Committee for Settling National-Local Disputes, a review board affiliated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, was ultimately unable to come to a judgement on the illegality of the national government’s rectification order. Instead it published a conclusion urging both parties to engage in discussions. Therefore, even after the July 21 deadline, the prefectural government did not file a lawsuit demanding that the rectification order be nullified, instead calling for continued discussions.

On the morning of July 21, Governor Onaga was notified of the government’s plan to sue him at a meeting between the prefectural and national governments at the Prime Minister’s Office. Onaga criticized the national government’s stance, saying, “The way they decided immediately to file a lawsuit, it was as if they were just waiting for the day it would become possible to sue. It is very unfortunate.”

It is the first time for the national government to file an “action for declaration of illegality of inaction” against a local government body since the type of lawsuit came into being along with the revision of the Local Autonomy Law in 2012

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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