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Deliver 'no new U.S. base' verdict to LDP-Komei forces: JCP Ichida

Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Ichida Tadayoshi in a speech in Okinawa City on April 17 called for the victory of anti-new U.S. base candidate Tomon Mitsuko in the mayoral election. Following is an excerpt of his speech in which he referred to the recent developments concerning the U.S. military realignment:

This is an historic mayoral election fought at a time when the government is trying to impose a huge new U.S. base on Okinawa. We must never give in. Let us elect Tomon Mitsuko, who stands firm against the construction of a new U.S. base and is committed to say whatever is necessary to the government in order to deliver a "No new U.S. base" verdict.

Heavy burdens of U.S. bases, dangers of accidents and crimes, and environmental destruction will affect our children and grandchildren

The Liberal Democratic and Komei party government's plan to construct a new U.S. base is terrible. It will have two 1,800-meter runways. The plan will extend the base site into the deeper Oura Bay.

A TV Asahi Network News broadcast on April 12 reported that the United States had this plan in mind during the Vietnam War. In the name of relocating the Futenma base, the U.S. forces are trying to establish a major foothold for the U.S. Marine Corps to carry out attacks abroad.

The government says that the two runways will be used separately for landings and take-offs so that airplanes can avoid flying above residential areas. Who can trust such a claim?

At the Futenma base, helicopters and airplanes with fixed wings fly freely over residential areas. In touch-and-go exercises, aircraft take off the moment they land. How can they do touch-and-go exercises using two different runways, one for landings and the other for take-offs?

What's more, the U.S. forces do not keep their words. Actually, they fly aircraft at nights and early mornings at Kadena and Futenma, in complete disregard of the agreement concluded with concerned municipalities to not fly at these hours.

From the present plan, the promises previously made to construct a "removable base" and to "dismantle it in 15 years" in the plan to construct a base off Nago have been deleted. This means that the heavy burdens of the presence of the military base, dangers of accidents and crimes, and potential environmental destruction will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Ginowan Mayor Iha Yoichi rightly criticized the plan, saying, "This is not a plan to reduce burdens. It imposes new burdens."

LDP-Komei candidate can't speak for residents

Nago Mayor Shimabukuro Yoshikazu was elected on his opposition to the "shoreline plan." But he recently accepted the plan.

In a public debate held on April 10, Tomon pointed out that Shimabukuro was "doomed to this change because he became mayor supported by the ruling (LDP and Komei) parties." This clearly shows that a candidate who counted on support from the government and ruling parties can't speak for the residents.

Let's take a look at the LDP-Komei candidate in this Okinawa City mayoral election. Initially, he said in a public debate that he welcomes the agreement on the new base. Faced with strong criticism, he made a completely different statement reported by the Okinawa Times of April 16. He said he is opposed to the "shoreline plan" and that he supports Okinawa Governor Inamine Keiichi. At meetings with his supporters, he tries to avoid discussing the base issue. What one initially states usually represents one's real intentions. He wants to get through the election without stating his position on the question of the new base. Citizens must not expect the LDP-Komei candidate to work on their behalf in opposition to the new base.

A Ryukyu Shimpo opinion survey published on April 14 shows that 70 percent of Okinawans are opposed to the latest agreement on constructing a base on the shoreline. What Okinawa City needs now is a mayor who can represent this wish of the residents. Tomon Mitsuko is that person. The election of Tomon as mayor will help strengthen Okinawa's struggle to stop the new base. It will also increase solidarity with residents and local municipalities throughout the country that are opposing the U.S. military realignment plan.

Failure of LDP-Komei administration

Another issue in this election is about the citizens' well-being and social services. Candidate Tomon says, "Welfare is what my political life is about." She is the only candidate who promises to work to improve social services.

During the eight years of LDP-Komei Okinawa City administration, living standards and the economy have degenerated. The city's unemployment rate stands at 14.2 percent, three times the national average and twice the prefectural average.

Okinawa City residents are forced to pay the third highest national health insurance tax. In 2002, seven elderly people died unattended in Okinawa City. Last year, three neglected elderly people died within a month that sent shock waves throughout the country. Saying her heart aches for them, she criticizes the cutbacks and says she will never repeat the mistake of abandoning the elderly.

The opponent in the election argues that an attitude of indifference in the district communities is to blame for these solitary deaths, and he denies any need for political accountability for this. Clearly, he is not qualified to become a mayor.

There are many things that the city administration can do if it has the will. Look at what they are doing in Ginowan and Urasoe cities. They have contracts with a lactic acid beverage firm for the delivery of products as a means of making sure that elderly people living alone are safe. This contract costs only 684,000 yen in Ginowan and 1.5 million yen in Urasoe a year. The question now is whether the city administration is willing to care for its residents.

What, then, is the major concern of the LDP-Komei camp? One is the reclamation plan at the Awase Tidal land area in the eastern seashore section of the city. They use tax money for major development projects through contracts with major corporations from mainland Japan, including major general contractor construction companies. In Awase's project, contracts have been awarded mainly to major general contractors outside of Okinawa and Okinawa's larger construction firms based outside of the city. In 2004 and 2005, of the 421 construction firms in the city, only three were awarded contracts for this project. The contract for the development project in Nakano-machi was awarded to mainland-based Kajima Corporation. Major projects do not help create jobs in Okinawa City. As clear from the high rates of unemployment and business failures, LDP-Komei politics that gives major development projects priority can no longer increase jobs or rebuild the local economy.

The mayoral election campaign is very fierce. Our opponent is campaigning with the backing of the central government, the ruling parties, and business circles. However, if all those who desire to "live in peace with human dignity without U.S. military bases," irrespective of differences in political opinions get out to vote, Tomon can win.

Only the central government and a handful of people making up the LDP-Komei coalition in Okinawa are in favor of U.S. military relocation plan. They are the minority in Okinawa City, too.

The election is being fought between the LDP-Komei forces made up of a handful of people and the residents of Okinawa City and Okinawa Prefecture.

We will pass judgment on the LDP-Komei government with the call for "No new U.S. military base in Okinawa" in order to offer a perspective for a peaceful and prosperous Okinawa without U.S. military bases.
- Akahata, April 19, 2006

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