“Give me a break!” Okinawa Governor issues protest to top US military official in Okinawa after drunk driving incident

“Give me a break!” Okinawa Governor issues protest to top US military official in Okinawa after drunk driving incident

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga handing a letter of protest to Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson (center), while Consul General Joel Ehrendreich bows (left). November 20, 2017, Okinawa Prefectural Office


November 21, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


“Give me a break!” On the morning after a drunk driving fatality in Naha caused by a U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga let fly one candid reprimand after another at Lt. General Lawrence Nicholson, the ranking military leader in Okinawa, as he stood before him. As the Governor protested that “You can’t be trusted with anything,” the General stood still with a stern expression.


The exchange took place in the Governor’s reception room on the 6th floor of the prefectural office. When Governor Onaga appeared from the media scrum, General Nicholson and Consul General Joel Ehrendreich bowed their heads toward him.


The Governor then read from a prepared statement. “Even if I were to say, ‘I demand that you enforce the law of the land, and take steps to prevent this from reoccurring,’ the worn down people of Okinawa would not believe a word of it. I can hardly say you have been ‘good neighbors.’ The people of Okinawa say, ‘Give me a break!’”


Governor Onaga and Lt. General Nicholson stood about a meter apart, with an interpreter off to the side. While the Governor spoke, occasionally the General would respond with small nods. When the Governor handed over the protest letter, the General accepted it with a bow.


After straightening up, Lt. Gen. Nicholson said, “While we have taken various measures to improve things, our efforts have been insufficient. I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” bowing deeply as the cameras flashed.


“We want you to understand how we feel.” After taking a seat, Governor Onaga emphasized this referring to the hardships that continue to be forced on Okinawa following the Battle of Okinawa. At one point, after prefacing a rhetorical questions with “I don’t need a reply,” the Governor posited, “The people of Okinawa are fed up. Where should they go to vent those emotions?”


Lt. Gen. Nicholson listened to the Governor’s words without taking notes, stressing that, “we will strive to lessen the burden imposed by the bases.” After a deep sigh by the General, the meeting was over. The scheduled 30 minute meeting lasted a little over 10 minutes. Ehrendreich said not a word, and watched the back of the Governor as he left the room.


(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)


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