Okinawa, 16 September 2016 – The Japanese central government today won a court case against Onaga Takeshi, governor of Okinawa prefecture, which effectively clears the way for the relocation of the Futenma U.S. military air base to Henoko.
The decision has been made despite majority opposition from people in Okinawa. Civil society organisations strongly criticised the victory calling it a crisis of democracy and local autonomy, and a threat to the island’s environment.
“This judicial ruling does not contribute to the development of local autonomy. People in Okinawa who oppose the expansion of U.S. military bases are put down with brute force by riot police. We will continue to fight, with the power of democracy and freedom,” said Hiroshi Ashitomi, a leader of one of the most prominent organisations challenging the expansion and relocation of the U.S. military base presence, the Anti-Helicopter Base Council.
“This ruling reveals the weakness of Japan’s environmental protection policy. The Japanese government designated the Yanbaru forest as a national park on 15 September with the aim to register it as a World Heritage area – however the planned Northern Training Area was excluded. We will not be defeated by this misleading scheme.
“Building a new base in Henoko will kill the sea. In the future, Japan’s environmental policies must be tested by international authorities. We hope for strong support from the world to protect the environment.”
The Japanese government filed the lawsuit against Onaga Takeshi, governor of Okinawa prefecture, in the Fukuoka High Court Naha branch after he cancelled construction at Henoko.
“This High Court ruling is totally unacceptable. Democracy and local government in Japan is in crisis,” said Yuki Sekimoto, spokesperson for Greenpeace Japan.
“The court should have respected the rights of the local Okinawa Prefecture to determine its own future, and therefore refuse approval for the landfill to proceed. Instead, the legal system has been used to trample over the wishes of the local community, and in the process threaten the island’s fragile marine and forest ecosystems.”
Okinawa prefecture established a third-party committee to examine the landfill approval of the Nago Henoko coastal areas, which was granted by Hirokazu Nakaima, the former governor. It then canceled the landfill approval partially because of insufficient environmental protection measures.
Public opinion against the new base construction in Henoko was the decisive factor in the new Governor’s election, the House of Representatives election, and the House of Councillors election.
Greenpeace has stood with the people fighting the proposed relocation of this military base in the past, with Greenpeace ships and crew acting in solidarity with local communities in 2005 and 2007, and have been actively working with local groups throughout 2015.