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Kadena curfew impacts local area businesses

Date Posted: 2005-07-15

A late-night curfew imposed on all personnel living and working on Kadena Air Base is showing signs of squeezing Okinawa City and Kadena Town businesses after only one weekend.

A 1~6am curfew on all SOFA-status people assigned to, or living on, Kadena, affects both military members, civilians and all family members. The curfew was imposed last Friday by the base commanding general, Brigadier General Jan-Marc Jouas, in the wake of a child molestation arrest of an airman stationed at his base.

The enlisted man, Sergeant Armando Valdez, stands accused of forcing a 10-year-old Okinawa City girl to lift her tee shirt and of touching her breast. The incident occurred in the Chuo District of Okinawa City, not far from Gate Two.

“This American asked me to tuck my tee shirt up,” the youngster told police. “I had to do it because if I don’t, he will kill me. I felt so.” She then told police “after I tucked up the shirt, he touched my chest.”

The 27-year-old airman denies the allegation, admitting he did take the girl’s picture with his cell phone camera, but says he never touched her.

Okinawa City’s Gate Two Street Committee says business took a 50% hit on the first night of the curfew. Many Kadena personnel were apprehensive of venturing into the local community, and that trend has continued through the week. Restaurant and clothing stores, as well as numerous shops and souvenir stores catering to the American crowd, report declining business. Bars report a sharp decline in business, even with owners promoting availability of non-alcoholic beverages.

A senior Kadena enlisted leader, 18th Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant Clinton Camac, says “this is a temporary standdown to immediately mitigate potential off-base incidents.” He says it is allowing the Kadena command group to design a permanent policy.

Local businesses lament the move, saying they hope the soon-to-come permanent plan won’t involve special liberty passes that restrict personnel movement. The Marines last year implemented such a program, which blocks many Marines from being off base after midnight.

Bar owners say that program has bitten their business to the tune of a 30% decrease in business.
Despite the protests from local political leaders, including Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine and the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly base affairs committee, businessmen say the restrictions will not solve incidents such as the one that spawned this curfew.

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