Editorial: Second ruling decision for Kadena noise pollution

September 12, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

It is hard to call it a ruling that addressed the suffering of the residents who are forced to live next to the U.S. military base.

During the third round of appeals to a lawsuit, the Fukuoka High Court Naha Branch rejected the request to suspend flights of U.S. aircrafts to cease the roaring noises that come from Kadena.

About 22,000 people who live in the vicinity of the U.S. Air Force Kadena Air Base requested for U.S. aircrafts to suspend flights during the night and early mornings.

The request ordered the payment of a total of 26,125,770,000-yen as compensation from the government.

But the amount has decreased by about 30 percent since the first trial.

Partial health damages that had been recognized during the first trial were not recognized this time.

It also supported the decision of the first trial regarding compensating plaintiffs from Yomitan Zakimi and north of Yomitan Zakimi.

The reason why the request to suspend flights was rejected was because “managerial and operational rights are in the hands of the U.S., so the defendant (government) is not in a position to control the operations of U.S. aircrafts.”

“The request asks for the defendant to prohibit an action by a third party, who is outside the jurisdiction of the defendant, and therefore there is no reason.”

The reasoning continues to employ the “third party action theory” from the first trial.

From the standpoint of the prefectural citizens, this is nothing but surrendering sovereignty, and only displays logic that encourages outrageous operations by the U.S. military base.

This means that as long as the base exists, the residents who live near the base will suffer damages for eternity.

Does the government seriously expect the residents to accept such unjustness?

While the first trial recognized that the noise pollution would increase the risk of high blood pressure occurrences, the appellate ruling stops at “psychological distress, such as anxiety regarding the occurrence of high blood pressure.”

It trivializes the damage and is definitely not something that can be accepted.

Our system of government is the separation of powers in which the powers of the state are separated by administrative, legislative, and judicial powers.

By having each organization independent of each other, it prevents the abuse of power and aims to protect the citizen’s rights and freedom.

The reality where extreme concentration of the U.S. military bases violates basic human rights of the residents is a result of the government’s bad decision making.

There is nothing other than the judicial branch’s power that can correct this course and get us on the right path.

In that regard, we cannot help but feel disappointed about the appellate ruling because it follows national policy and it is as if the government is once again endorsing the unregulated use of the U.S. military base.

While the ruling recognizes the U.S. military’s activities at Kadena Air Base “contributes to benefiting the entire nation” and the nation enjoys the benefits, it did point out that a partial and small number of people, including the plaintiff, are forced to make special sacrifices.

It concluded that “Such unfairness cannot be justified even with the public need for the U.S. military’s activities and its public welfare.”

If an unfairness that cannot be justified exists, then why do they persist with the “third party activity theory?”

They should be ordering the government to request the U.S. military to suspend flights during the night and early mornings.

The noise pollution that exceeds a tolerable limit continues to remain unimproved. Unlawful damages cannot be neglected more than it already is.

(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)

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