Saturday, November 15, 2014

Analysis of the Okinawa Movement: SNA's Interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine

Michael Penn's interview with Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, at Nago City Hall, two days before the election for a new Okinawa governor:

INAMINE: The election is about the ideas of the citizens of Okinawa, whether they can be heard in Tokyo and Washington. Or if the ideas are only about bases for those two governments will be quietly accepted by the next governor.

SNA: Why are both conservatives and progressives supporting Onaga?

INAMINE: First, a governor is a politician who must honor promises. Clearly, Governor Nakaima did not do what he promised to do.

Second, in Okinawa, both conservatives and progressives agree that the damage from military bases must come to an end now. The hearts of conservatives and progressives are united, and in this election, they have come together with one voice.

SNA: How did Governor Nakaima lose so much support after eight years in office?

INAMINE: First, as I said, he violated his campaign promise. Also, he views development as separate from military bases, that economic progress is related to accepting military bases. That is different from Okinawa's stance in the past.

SNA: Is there a connection between this election and fundamental issue of democracy?

INAMINE: More than 80% of Okinawans oppose building a Henoko base.  In a democracy, you can't just ignore the voices of the people. If you do ignore them, it's a big problem. It's something that cannot be allowed in a democratic society.

SNA: What about the connection between US bases and economic development in Okinawa?

INAMINE: Conservatives and progressives divided in the last elections. But this time, some business leaders backed Mr. Onaga.

Tourism is a leading sector in Okinawa's economy. Military bases account for less than 5% of Okinawa's economy. The idea that Okinawa needs bases to survive economically is just a myth spread widely throughout mainland Japan.  Tourism is the industry that can put Okinawa on its own feet.

SNA: Do you have any concern that Mr. Onaga might change his policies after the election?

INAMINE: I think Mr. Onaga is very different from Mr. Nakaima. Mr. Onaga has put his political life on the line in this election, and the main issue is the Henoko base issue. So if you ask if Mr. Onaga will tone down his opposition, you have to realize he has put everything on the line.

I have faith Mr. Onaga will not betray our expectations.

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