Editorial: Now that Governor Onaga has filed an objection, the central government’s inconsistencies must be scrutinized

November 3, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism ordered a stay of execution of Governor Takeshi Onaga’s revocation of the permit authorizing land reclamation in order to build a new base in Henoko as part of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. In response, the Okinawa prefectural government filed for a review of the government’s action with the Committee for Settling National-Local Disputes. The events to come will say a great deal about the state of justice in Japan.

Doubts have arisen as to the fairness of workings within the Japanese government, and this issue will become a barometer to test precisely that. Needless to say, the government’s order for a stay of execution brought the issue of fairness to light.

After Governor Onaga revoked the land reclamation permit, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) filed an appeal requesting administrative review with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) based on the Administrative Appeals Act. Upon receiving the appeal, MLIT minister Keiichi Ishii ordered a stay of execution of the governor’s revocation. Both the ODB, which filed the appeal, and MLIT, which received it, are organs of the same national government. The government essentially submitted the papers with one hand and accepted them with the other. No matter how one views it, this spectacle lacks a sense of justice.

Ninety-three Japanese scholars of administrative law published a statement calling the stay of execution illegal, stating, “The Administrative Appeals Act was not intended to be used by governmental agencies to file appeals requesting administrative review.” The statement further criticized the Okinawa Defense Bureau for “impersonating a private entity” and even went so far as to say that Japan has “violated [the principles of] a nation of laws.” The fact that legal experts would make such a statement shows how utterly unjust the government’s actions have been.

The Committee for Settling National-Local Disputes is a third-party organization. It seems the issue will finally be taken to a place where an unbiased ruling can be handed down. However, the Local Autonomy Act stipulates that “[court] verdicts” and “[judicial] rulings, etc.” are outside the jurisdiction of the Committee. Therefore, Okinawa’s case could be turned down automatically.

If that happens, and the central government ends up in battle with Okinawa over the validity of the government’s decision, there will be no chance for an impartial third-party organization to have a say in the matter. Thus, doubts have arisen as to the fairness of workings within the Japanese government.

Rather than splitting hairs, what is really needed is a thorough examination of the government’s “impersonation of a private entity.”

The government’s reasoning is absurd. It claims that because it is “urgent” to remove the dangers posed by MCAS Futenma, a stay of execution is required to nullify Governor Onaga’s revocation and proceed with relocation work that will take years. If closing Futenma is so urgent, why does the government not demand operations cease there within five years, as was promised to the previous governor? Why do they not demand a halt to violations of Osprey flight rules and late-night and early-morning helicopter flights? Their logic is utterly incoherent. The Committee must investigate the government’s inconsistencies.

Governor Onaga repeated to the press that he will use “every possible means [to stop the new base construction].” Numerous legal battles are sure to come. Not because of the governor’s personal views, but because of the unwavering sentiment of the Okinawan people. The government will finally have to face the weight of the will of the Okinawan people.

(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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