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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Power of Grassroots 「民草の力」


On May 4, Hatoyama and Nago's Mayor Inamine met at Nago Community Centre, with citizens of Nago watching through the glass partition. (Photo from Ryukyu Shimpo - standing on the left is Nago's Mayor Inamine.)

What did Hatoyama have in mind wearing a yellow shirt, the colour that people in Okinawa and beyond wore to potest against a new base on April 25?

And what nerve would he have had in planning his next visit to Okinawa on May 15, the 38th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan? To congratulate Okinawans and tell them, "By the way we are building another base in Okinawa"? Fortunately he had enough sensibility to postpone that second visit.

Author Medoruma Shun's blog has a complete transcription of the May 4 Inamine-Hatoyama meeting. Here is a summary.

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Inamine:
Until today, citizens of Nago have lived with mixed emotions of expectation, anxiety, and distrust. I was elected on January 24 on the platform that I would not allow a new base to be built, whether it would be over the ocean or on an inland area. My determination has not changed and will always be consistent. The result of the mayoral election and the success of the April 25 rally have unequivocally shown the popular will of "No" to a new base within Okinawa. The extra edition of the newspaper reported that you have indicated to the Governor and mayors of other base-hosting municipalities that it would be difficult to move the Futenma Air Station outside of Okinawa and more burden would be requested on Okinawans. If this means Henoko, I must say this is totally unacceptable.

I cannot possibly make the elders of Henoko suffer more, after over 2,000 days of sit-in. Here so many citizens of Nago are watching us, and I request that you give utmost consideration to the people's will.

Hatoyama:
I just came back from visiting Henoko. It was a beautiful ocean. I had been there several times, and also visited those elders of Henoko to encourage them. Looking at the beautiful ocean, I realized there is a strong feeling within me not to contaminate the ocean. This is my honest feeling. I am also aware of the weight of the my words before the election. I am also aware that on April 25, people of Okinawa got together demanding the new base to be outside of Okianwa. I just came back from an elementary school in Futenma where I met with local citizens, who talked about their hearing difficulties and expressed their urgent with for the Air Station to be removed. I hope to be able to relocate the Air Station outside of the country, or at least elsewhere in Japan, and this hope has not changed.

Japan-U.S. negotiations have started today. It is important to tell the U.S. about the importance of reducing the burden for the people of Okinawa, which will be helpful for securing the Japan-US alliance as well. Although I cannot say when for sure, I believe it is possible to move the base completely to Guam and Tinian at some point in the future. However, considering the current situations surrounding Northeast Asia, including North Korea, the government's position is that it is necessary to continue to ask Okinawa to bear the burden, from the perspective of deterrence in the context of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

We explored different possibilities outside the prefecture, but we have been told that it would not be possible to bring the base so far from where the ground troops are, and capabilities for joint operations needed to be guaranteed.

Again, I have looked at the ocean of Henoko, and would like to explore a possibility that minimizes environmental impacts on the ocean. At the same time, from the perspective of deterrence, I would have to ask people of Okinawa to bear a part of the burden of hosting bases.

Inamine:
You talked about reduction of Okinawans' burden. I don't think reduction of burden in one place should result in an increase of burden in another. You talked about deterrence. If you are talking about protecting the whole nation of Japan and the whole population of Japanese people, I would like you to think about involving a whole nation. It is just beyond the capacity of a small island like ours to host another base. It is discrimination against Okinawa. I would like you to keep your election pledge and make a decision to make sure the base would be moved outside of the prefecture.

Hatoyama:
I agree that the issue of deterrence applies to all the nation, and it would be unfair to ask Okinawa to bear all the burden. It is imperative in the process of the negotiation to make sure burdens of Okinawa would be significantly reduced. The government's plan has not been finalized and I cannot say more than what I have said, but I would like to use what I learned in this trip for our negotiation with the U.S.

Inamine:
You told us before that the Henoko plan was no longer on the table. However, recent media reports talk about this plan to build a base in Henoko by placing pilings into the ocean bed instead of reclamation. Citizens of Nago are very worried. Whatever the facility is, citizens of Nago can no longer bear the burden of hosting another base. The plan should not come back to Henoko. This is a sincere wish of the citizens of Nago. When you leave, please do so bearing in your mind that there is no way that the base plan would come back to Henoko.

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As it is obvious in this exchange, Okinawans have never heard a convincing reason that why so many bases had to be in Okinawa, because there simply is none. Yagasaki Katsuma, in the NGO workshop held on May 1 in New York said, "This prevailing notion of 'deterrentism' need to be re-examined and challenged." Miyagi Yasuhiro argues, "Okinawa has been used as sacrifice of the performance of 'deterrence.' This sacrifice is made not to deter conflict, but to maintain the potential of conflict. "

Ginowan's Mayor Iha Yoichi told me on December 28 that he believed Hatoyama would make a decision that would reflect Okinawan voices at the end. Iha was optimistic. He believed in the change that the DPJ government was going to bring about. He and his staff did see the change. Under the LDP rule, the best that could happen when Iha and his staff went to Tokyo was a meeting with a department chief. After Hatoyama government took over, for the first time they were able to meet with Cabinet Ministers. For the first time Okinawan voices were heard within Tokyo, and across the nation. Hatoyama has not had the right political leadership to carry through his will, but the significance of his government lies in the fact that the Futenma has become the most visible and challenging issue of this government.

The rest is up to us, people.

Miyagi, who has seen and been part of Nago's long struggle as a city councillor, as a mayoral candidate, and most importantly as a citizen, argues,

"Back in 1997, Nago citizens expressed their 'NO' to the new base in the plebiscite. They fought for 12 years since then until finally an anti-base mayor was elected in January 2010. There is so much we can learn from this history; that Nago citizens never gave up. "

"Grassroots are powerless, but powerful at the same time. They have the kind of power that the national authority does not have. "

The power of the people's will, and their determination never to give up are about to overpower the two governments' lingering attempt to build a new base in Okinawa.

This time people are there to win. There is no alternative.

PeacePhilosopher

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