“NO Henoko”: Protesters rally across 32 prefectures, five thousand at Diet

“NO Henoko”: Protesters rally across 32 prefectures, five thousand at Diet

Protestors at the front gate of the Diet in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon, calling for the construction of the new base in Henoko to stop.

May 26, 2019 The Ryukyu Shimpo

On May 25, protesters rallied across the nation to stop the construction of the new base in Henoko, Nago City. While many cities in Japan recorded the hottest day of the year yet, protestors hit the streets, held gatherings and talks at 38 locations across 32 prefectures. According to organizers, a crowd of five thousand gathered near the Diet building in Tokyo, voicing their objection to the central government: “Defer to the will of the Okinawan people.”

This is the first time a nation-wide movement was organized since a prefectural referendum was held in February to vote on the landfill work involved in the construction of a new base in Henoko. Given the central government’s indifference toward public opinion and its forceful hand in continuing the construction work, a number of speakers took the podium near the Diet building, questioning the nation’s democratic processes. Some proposed requesting local assemblies to adopt position statements in an attempt to disseminate Okinawan public opinion.

One of the organizers, Shinsaku Nohira, greeted the crowd and said, “This time, given the results of the prefectural referendum, the ball is fully in the court of mainland Japan. We are responsible for finding a solution.” Nohira alluded to Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya’s earlier response to the results of the prefectural referendum, in which the minister stated, “Okinawa has its own form of democracy, and the country has its own form of democracy.” Nohira said, “If the will of the Okinawan people is not honored, it would mean that there is no democracy in Japan.”

Gov. Denny Tamaki also gave a statement, in which he said the Abe administration’s handling of the issue “is threatening constitutional principles.” Hiroshi Ashitomi, co-leader of a group opposing U.S. military heliports in Okinawa said, “Giving up is not an option if we want to win. I hope people will adopt this motto and continue fighting.”

Satoko Uchiyama, a member of the Tokyo Musashino City Assembly, who in March adopted a position statement soliciting the central government to honor the results of the referendum said, “The main islands of Japan should be initiating the opposition movement. Tokyo is expected to indicate its intentions and take action.”

(English translation by T&CT and Monica Shingaki)

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