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Nago residents don’t all agree to anti-base issue

Date Posted: 2006-01-24

Nago City’s mayoral election Sunday is the first test of political will in the proposed relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the northern end of the island.

Three candidates for mayor are locked in agreement the idea of building a 2,000 meters long runway at Camp Schwab in its district is bad. In these final hours before the election, some residents are questioning how hard those candidates are listening to what they want.

Sigenori Higa says “I’m living in Nago City and doing my own business. People must think,” the 60-year-old says. “If ther are no military bases, there is nothing left in the northern part of Okinawa. Who will want to come to work, or who will bring money without the military bases.” Higa adds “the military is the only one bringing money to fuel the dreams of Nago City.” He wants to see the city stop fighting and arguing about having the bases, and begin a promotion plan.

Taiki Shimabukuro was born and raised in Henoko, and says “I like Henoko.” The 28-year-old wants “to get a job here at home. I don’t want to get out of my hometown.” Shimabukuro says bases create jobs, and “I believe that if the jobs are here, more young people are sure to be coming back.” Speaking for the younger generation, Shimabukuro says it’s time to vote for a person who will bring jobs and to promote the Henoko Village area.

Hideko Gushiken has similar feelings. “I want to elect the peson who can make Nago City’s downtown area grow, and who will bring the shopping arcade area’s life back. Gushiken says “Our city needs help in every economic way or it’s going to die. Why is everybody talking badly about military bases?” The 58-year-old says “we don’t care about bases, but do care about our downtown.”

Kiyoko Shinjo echoed the feelings. She says the “city mayor’s job is very much mixed up with peoples lives, and my life too.” The 38-year-old wants to vote for some who who “will develop our area and promote the city.” She says she doesn’t care where the money comes from, but knows there must be renewed support for Nago City.

This week, all three mayoral candidates spoke strongly against the plan to construct the new airfield on Camp Schwab, in Nago City’s district. Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, a former city assembly chairman and member, is supported the the Liberal Democracy Party. Keito Oshiro, 65, is backed by the reformist party, and Munehiro Gakiya has support from the Reformist, Communist and Socialist Parties.

Keiichi Inamine, Okinawa’s governor, has tossed his support behind the 59-year-old Shimabukuro. The outgoing Nago City major, Takeo Kishimoto, is also supporting Shimabukuro. Naha City mayor Takeshi Onaga has traveled north to campaign for Shimabukuro as well, saying “He is the one that can get support from the Prefecture and the central Government. He can promote the northern part of Okinawa.”

Oshiro disagrees, saying he’s “the only person telling the world we’ll never bring Futenma Air Station to Henoko. Never. I’m the one,” he says, “speaking out against military bases. No more military bases in Okinawa.” Gakiya has opposed the base move, but softens slightly as he campaigns, saying “not only is the bases issue important, but citizen power should be moved for the city mayor, or prefecture too.”

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