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Tokunoshima does not share Prime Ministers idea

Date Posted: 2010-04-22

Some 15,000 Tokunoshima residents made it very clear Sunday that they want absolutely no part of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation, spilling into the streets to protest and voice opposition to a proposal by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Participation in the protest rally was far beyond organizers’ expectations. They, along with representatives of the mayors of Tokunoshima, Isen and Amagi towns, had produced 13,000 give away pamphlets explaining why Tokushima shouldn’t become the new home for Okinawa’s Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. Within minutes, the protest at Kametsu new fishery port ballooned well beyond the expected 10,000 demonstrators. As the rally began, nearly 60% of the island’s population—some 15,000 people—joined in.

Sixteen different groups—environmental, fishermen’s cooperative, agricultural and youth organizations—all made their pitches to the crowd, urging support in rejecting the Hatoyama plan, which was to relocate part of the aircraft operations now at Futenma in Okinawa’s Ginowan City to Tokunoshima. Unlike many of the anti-Futenma demonstrations around the country, the Tokunoshima rally was virtually all local citizens and no outsiders.
Isencho’s mayor wasted no time slamming the Prime Minister. “I must say the prime minister has poor judgment. He won’t be able to sound us out about the Tokunoshima proposal,” said mayor Akira Okubo. Hatoyama is reportedly heading to the island to personally try to solicit support for the Futenma relocation. Amagicho Mayor Kosuke Ohisa wasn’t any more pleased with the Prime Minister. “I feel he took us for granted,” he says, adding “he didn’t put out any feelers about our intentions.

Tokunoshima’s 200 kilometer distance from Okinawa, coupled with its 2,000-meter runway, put the island into contention as a replacement site for Futenma, which Prime Minister Hatoyama promised during last year’s election campaign to move off Okinawa. Observers say the Prime Minister placed too much faith in his supporters and proponents of the plan, listening to former speaker of the Amagicho Municipal Assembly, Hidetada Maeda, who told Hatoyama “potentially, most of the islanders will support the plan. It’s going to be okay once the government makes a decision.”

That’s anything but true. Few islanders want anything to do with the idea of hosting a U.S. Marine Corps base. Kagoshima’s governor, Yuichiro Ito, had initially been thought to be behind the plan, but he backed off after town mayors, stung by their not being consulted, came out firmly opposed.

Sunday’s rally began with recorded sounds of World War II dive bombers dumping ordnance, followed by explosions and then the female voice declaring that it had been 65 years since World War II, and peace was restored to Tokunoshima. From there, it was downhill for the Prime Minister, whose name was taken in vain by a string of speakers ranging from sugar cane workers to members of the Diet. Islanders learning of the Prime Minister’s intentions from radio and television didn’t sit well, with most citizens declaring “we were shocked”.

One housewife declared “I don’t think anybody is happy to bring the Futenma Air Station to this tiny island, Tokunoshima. Even Okinawa people don’t think this is a good idea.”

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