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Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012

EDITORIAL

Unethical meddling in Okinawa

The chief of the Okinawa Defense Bureau was found to have given lectures on the coming mayoral election in Ginowan on Okinawa Island, the site of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, to bureau workers.

Although the bureau chief, Mr. Ro Manabe, may have tried to hide his true intentions in giving the lectures, it is logical to think he was hoping that lecture participants would vote for a candidate acceptable to the government on the issue of moving the Futenma functions to Henoko in another part of the island. Okinawan people will further stiffen their opposition to the Henoko plan.

In the Feb. 12 mayoral election, former Mayor Yoichi Iha -supported by the Japan Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and Okinawa Shakai Taishu-to, an Okinawan party — and Mr. Atsushi Sakima — supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito — will run against each other. In the past, Mr. Sakima conditionally supported the Henoko plan.

On Jan. 31 a JCP Lower House member disclosed in the Diet lecture-related emails that were circulated in the bureau. The Defense Ministry later admitted that following Mr. Manabe's instructions, the bureau had collected the names of bureau workers living in Ginowan and bureau workers whose relatives live in Ginowan. He gave lectures to 68 of the 80 bureau workers listed on Jan. 23 and 24.

The ministry says he told lecture participants not to abstain from voting and to act in a just and neutral way during the election campaign period and that he did not support any particular candidate. Although both candidates are calling for moving the Futenma functions outside Okinawa Prefecture, Mr. Manabe explained the difference in their stances.

First, it must be questioned why a high-ranking bureaucrat had to give such lectures. Lecture participants likely would have surmised Mr. Manabe's intentions or felt pressure from him. In fact, Mr. Manabe told an Okinawa prefectural assembly member that he had hoped that bureau workers would become able to explain the government position to their relatives.

In late November, his predecessor, Mr. Satoshi Tanaka, was sacked for saying, "Do you say (to a woman) 'I'm going to rape you' before you rape her?," concerning the timing of submitting an environmental impact assessment report on the Futenma relocation to the Okinawa governor.

The government should realize that the Okinawan people will not trust it as long as it plans to move the Futenma functions within Okinawa Prefecture.



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