The Abe government has taken a discriminative attitude against Okinawa over the construction plan of a new military base in Henoko in the island. It keeps showing a cold shoulder, disregarding a will of Okinawa’s people and infringing the right of autonomy. It rejected solicitude of a meeting by new Governor Onaga Takeshi and decreased budgets for developing the island, while it resorted to violence to drive out protesting citizens to have the construction job go forward.
RESPECT OF PEOPLE’S WILL IS BASIS OF DEMOCRACY
The Abe government has resumed construction jobs off the coast of Henoko without holding a meeting with local people. It employed riot police and the Japan Coast Guard to remove protesters with force, which has produced the injured. Some were arrested by the police.
As is seen in the Governor’s election in November and in the general election in December last year, Okinawa’s people do not want a new base in Henoko. Protest campaigns to use force by citizens constitutes the right of people, even an obligation as a sovereign person.
The government plans to decrease budget for the Fiscal 2015 for development of the island, a new decision made after five years of absence. Meanwhile, however, it will furnish bigger money for the new base and enhancement of the Self Defense Forces (SDF) and provide good subsidies for the realignment plan of the US military forces.
Is Okinawa Treated Favorably?
People living in the four bigger islands of Japan still argue and debate: ’Okinawa cannot survive without military bases’ and ‘the island is treated more favorably than other prefectures’.
It is because the Cabinet Office prepares a special budget to develop Okinawa, and, naturally, people believe that the government treats the island favorably. But that is manipulation.
Let’s analyze the problem.
Due to ground battles in the island during the World War II and the subsequent occupation by the US military, development of infrastructure in Okinawa delayed. The island is far from the major islands. Seventy-four percent of all the US military function is concentrated in Okinawa. Successive Japanese governments have pointed these three factors to justify the necessity to finance. Okinawa residents have borne heavy burden to support existing bases. But that must not mean to add another burden.
What is the Okinawa development plan? Grants and subsidies paid to local governments are a financial transfer from the state to municipalities. As for Okinawa, the total sum ranks in the 17th out of the 47 prefectures across the nation and a money term per inhabitant is in the 6th place, which is not remarkably high (in the Fiscal 2012 account).
Instead, necessary budgeting of the state government is absent: to construct a second runway at the Naha Airport and to plan a railroad. Part of these jobs is incorporated in the Okinawa development plans. Since the island returned to Japan in 1972, financial efforts have been made by the government, but they have encouraged businesses of the four main islands. Local people share an idea in common today that the money did not help the island to be independent in the economic term.
Residents in Bigger Islands Must Learn
Political and economic circles in Okinawa worked hard last year for the plan of new base. They claim: ‘bases are the biggest obstacle for economic development’, ‘we should be rich with dignity and pride’ and ‘we want the right of self-determination’ ? these are symbolic.
History tells us a background of discrimination against Okinawa. The Abe government is explicitly unfriendly to Governor.
It was in 1956, at the time of US military occupation. Mr. Senaga Kamejiro was elected as Mayor of Naha City. The occupation authority, saying that he was a member of the Okinawa People’s Party, prevented the Bank of Ryukyu from paying subsidies and financing to freeze the accounts of the city. Residents campaigned voluntarily to pay taxes to support Mayor. People queued in front of the City Hall. The tax collection rate reached 97%.
Solidarity is required now beyond borders of countries and regions. Concrete actions are needed to support Okinawa. Let’s be creative to get united. The new base and the Abe government’s approval of the right of collective self-defense directly link to situations in the Middle East.
This year commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. People who live in the bigger islands should learn from people of Okinawa.
February 3, 2015