[Exclusive Interview] Former President of Catalonia Puigdemont discusses Okinawa, says ignoring popular will is a mistake

[Exclusive Interview] Former President of Catalonia Puigdemont discusses Okinawa, says ignoring popular will is a mistake

“It’s a mistake not to lend an ear to the will of the people,” says former President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont in Waterloo, Belgium

January 5, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
Takahiro Miyagi

On January 4, the Ryukyu Shimpo interviewed Carles Puigdemont, age 57, former President of Catalonia who has been charged with sedition and other acts for carrying out a referendum regarding Catalonian independence in October 2017, in Belgium, where he resides.

When asked his thoughts on the fact that the Japanese and U.S. governments are ignoring Okinawans’ opposition to the construction of a new military base in Henoko, Nago as part of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, as expressed in a prefectural referendum in February of last year, Puigdemont said, “It’s a mistake not to lend an ear to the will of the people.

Respecting the result of a referendum is a rule of democracy. It is the government’s duty not to ignore it and to engage in political dialogue.”

The Ryukyu Shimpo interviewed Puigdemont through an introduction by Okinawa International University professor Masaki Tomochi, who is in Catalonia for training.

Puigdemont said he “is aware” of the fact that more than 70% of U.S. military exclusive-use facilities in Japan are located in Okinawa.

Just as the Japanese national government and Okinawan prefectural government continue to wage a battle in court regarding the Henoko new base construction, Spain’s national government has also brought legal action against Puigdemont and other former members of the Catalonian government, bringing a political issue to the courtroom.

Regarding this matter, Puigdemont said, “International society has warned the Spanish government that it must ensure judiciary independence.

The fact that political interests and the judiciary are still linked is a negative legacy of the era of dictatorship. It is an impediment to democratic progress.”

“We must join hands in the face of state oppression and work so that we ourselves can decide our own future,” Puigdemont said, mentioning Okinawa and Quebec, Canada as other regions where the government is violating people’s self-determination.

Puigdemont was elected President of Catalonia in 2016. The Catalonian referendum on October 1, 2017 saw 90.18% of voters in favor of independence, with a 43.03% voter turnout.

The Spanish government charged Puigdemont and other then-members of the Catalonian government with sedition on the grounds that the referendum violated the constitution.

In October 2019, the court ordered an unsuspended sentence of 9 to 13 years incarceration for the former members of the Catalonian government.

Puigdemont fled to Belgium in October 2017, and the Spanish government issued a European Arrest Warrant against him. Meanwhile, Puigdemont was elected as a member of the European Parliament in May 2019, and while the Spanish government refused to recognize his appointment, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling on December 20, 2019 recognizing the validity of his election.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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