4,200 people at the Nago protest rally and governor determined to remove Ospreys

4,200 people at the Nago protest rally and governor determined to remove Ospreys

Participants raising their spirits by shouting “Ganbaro!” three times, demanding the removal of Ospreys on the evening of December 22 at the 21st Century Forest Park Gymnasium in Nago City (Photograph by Masatoshi Moromizato).

December 23, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

[Nago] On December 22, the Emergency Protest Rally Demanding the Removal of the Defective Aircraft Osprey took place following the crash-landing accident of the U.S. military vertical takeoff and landing transport aircraft MV-22 Osprey at the coast of Abu of Nago City. The rally was held at the 21st Century Forest Park Gymnasium in Nago, and about 4,200 Okinawans attended. Participants appealed to the public during the rally. They said that Okinawa will work with Governor Takeshi Onaga to prevent leaving behind a seed of chaos for the next generation. Okinawans will also continue to fight with the governor until: Ospreys are removed, the Futenma Air Station is closed and removed, and the construction on the new base in Henoko is abandoned.

During the rally, Governor Onaga spoke in Shimakutuba, an endangered Ryukyuan language, for part of his speech. He said, “If we don’t let them construct the new Henoko base, then we can also remove the Ospreys. We must not let them construct the base.” He also touched on the construction of the helicopter landing strips, or helipads, in the Northern Training Area (NTA), and criticized the situation. He said, “The Ospreys operating close to Takae of Higashi Village is a grave issue. The government forcing through with the land return ceremony does not make them seem at all considerate of Okinawans.”

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine also spoke in Shimakutuba, and opposed the construction of the helipads in the U.S. military NTA. He said, “The new base in Henoko and the helipads in Takae – no means no.” He also severely criticized the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) for merely repeating what the U.S. military says regarding the Osprey crash accident. He said, “(The ODB) has zero ability to serve as the party in charge. We’d be better off if they weren’t involved at all.”

Suzuyo Takazato, joint-representative of the All-Okinawa Council, which hosted the protest rally, also made a comment. She pointed out, “The Japanese government permitted the operations of the Ospreys to resume without conducting a strict investigation. You could say that this accident was caused by the Japanese government.”

During the rally, one speaker said, “Conservatives and reformists must work as one to stop the construction of the new base in Henoko and Ospreys from flying.” Another said, “Okinawan people’s anger has reached a boiling point, and they can no longer be patient. We must join forces to confront both the Japanese and U.S. governments” Yet another said, “We will continue to fight as long as the bases exist.” Participants showed their determination toward the battle that is to come in removing the Ospreys and preventing the construction of the new base in Henoko of Nago.

Six Diet members elected by Okinawa from the opposing party of the government also participated in the rally.

The rally was arranged to take place around the same time as the Northern Training Area Land Return Ceremony, which was held at the Bankoku Shintryokan Okinawa Resort MICE Facility in Nago.

(English translation by T&CC and Chelsea Ashimine)

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