Onaga: “Government trying to wrest Okinawa into submission” with lawsuit

Onaga: “Government trying to wrest Okinawa into submission” with lawsuit

Governor Takeshi Onaga greets attendees at a rally prior to the trial hearing on August 5, around 1 p.m. at Naha’s Jogaku Park

August 6, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On August 5, the first hearing in a new lawsuit brought by the Japanese government against Okinawa Prefecture was held at the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court. The lawsuit is an “action for the declaration of illegality of inaction;” the government wants the court to rule that Governor Takeshi Onaga’s nullification of the permit authorizing the reclamation of land in Henoko, Nago, and his refusal to comply with an order to undo the nullification, were illegal. Meanwhile, Okinawa Prefecture holds that the nullification was legal, and that its refusal to obey the “rectification order” by the national government demanding that it revoke the nullification does not constitute illegal “inaction.” The national government submitted a written statement requesting that the trial be concluded on the same day it began, in contrast to which Governor Takeshi Onaga, in his testimony, called for “a thorough inquiry” into the case. Okinawa Prefecture applied to have eight witnesses take the stand, including experts on biological ecosystems and national security, as well as Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, but presiding judge Toshiro Tamiya only authorized testimony to be given by Governor Onaga himself, and announced that the trial will conclude on August 19. A verdict is to be made on September 16.

In his opening testimony, Governor Onaga referred to the fact that the Committee for Settling National-Local Disputes, which had been tasked with reviewing the validity of the government’s rectification order, announced in June that it was unable to reach a verdict and instead called on both sides to engage in “earnest discussions.” In regard to this, Onaga said, “It is unfortunate that the situation has devolved into a lawsuit [without engaging in discussion].”

Onaga further stated, “Is there any region besides Okinawa that is so unilaterally persecuted by our own government? Okinawa is only one of Japan’s forty-seven prefectures, yet the government is attempting with all its might to wrest Okinawa into submission.”

Ministry of Justice Litigation Bureau chief Makoto Jozuka, representing the government side, emphasized that all opinions had been aired regarding the nullification of the land reclamation authorization during the trial for the “execution by proxy lawsuit” brought against Okinawa by the government last year. “We want the court to conclude the trial and reach a verdict quickly,” Jozuka said.

In his testimony, Governor Onaga explained that the Henoko land reclamation plan entails “tremendous disadvantages,” including the loss of Okinawa’s unique and precious natural and environmental resources. He also argued that the plan would entrench the excessive burden of U.S. bases borne by Okinawa. Onaga stated that the reasons given by the government to explain the necessity of the land reclamation “are not found to imply any specific public benefit or necessity justifying the considerable disadvantages” that the land reclamation would entail, and emphasized that his nullification of the authorization was legal and within the scope of his discretionary powers. The national government, meanwhile, argued in its written complaint that there were no legal flaws in the previous governor’s authorization of the land reclamation, and that in authorizing the land reclamation, “[previous governor Nakaima] did not overstep his discretionary powers.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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