Battle of Okinawa memorial-goers say prime minister’s speech does not resonate

Battle of Okinawa memorial-goers say prime minister’s speech does not resonate

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking at the memorial on June 23 at 12:44 p.m. at the Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni, Itoman

June 24, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

At the Okinawa Memorial Day ceremony on June 23, Governor Denny Tamaki gave a speech mixing Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language) and English with his Japanese, expressing opposition to the construction of a new base in Henoko, and calling for revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Each of Governor Tamaki’s statements drew applause from the audience. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his speech, discussed reducing the burden of military bases on Okinawa and advancing measures to stimulate the economy, but made no mention of the new base construction in Henoko. While he spoke, some audience members shouted “Go home!” and “Liar!” in Uchinaguchi. The response to his speech stood in marked contrast with that to the governor’s speech.

One attendee, Hisao Uema, age 68, of Motobu, said, “Rather than just pretense, I’d like to see [Abe] show an attitude of empathy towards Okinawans and utilize it in his politics.” Mami Kamiya, age 38, of Tomigusuku, who attended with her family, responded coolly to the prime minister’s speech, saying, “The government is belittling the views of Okinawans by ignoring the result of the prefectural referendum.” Yuri Aguni of Urasoe, age 18 and a first-year student at Okinawa University, gave the prime minister’s speech a wary eye, saying, “It did not resonate with me. I feel that his visit to Okinawa is itself a performance.”

Journalist Daisuke Tsuda, age 45, who has been covering the ceremony every year since 2015, said that the prime minister’s speech “is bound to rub Okinawans, who are calling for dialogue, the wrong way.” He added, “I think the central government should squarely face the Okinawan people.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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