On June 23rd and 24th, RENGO conducted its "2006 Peace Action in Okinawa" whichkicks off a series of peace movements this year.
Approximately 1400 attendees from each of the 47 prefectures nationwide gatheredat Naha Civic Hall on the 23rd for the "2006 Peace Okinawa Rally." Onthe 24th, the "Peace Fieldwork" activity was held with youth committeemembers from RENGO Local of Okinawa acting as guides. There was also a rallyand a demonstration march held in front of the Futenma Air Base to demand thedownsizing of U.S. military bases as well as a revision of the Japan-U.S. Statusof Forces Agreement.
The Peace Actions will continue on to Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August andthen to Nemuro, Hokkaido this September.
The Peace Okinawa Rally is structured in two parts. The first part openedwith a traditional Okinawan folk dance called Eisa performed by members ofthe Electric Power Related Industry Workers' Union of Okinawa. After a readingof a "Message for Peace by the Young," actress Sumiko Kitajima performeda monodrama entitled "Battle of Okinawa Mass Self-Destruction: Red Bubbling" onthe tragedy of war.
Afterwards, Mayor of Chatan Town, Masaharu Noguni, gave a lecture entitled "FromBase-Town to Youth Town" wherein he said that despite the fact that 53.5%of the town’s land is occupied by U.S. bases, they are actively promoting thedownsizing of those bases and pushing forward with a plan to develop a peaceful,bountiful, vibrant town througheffectively utilizing the returned land.
RENGO Deputy President Yasuo Morikoshi gave a speech during the second partof the Peace Okinawa Rally on behalf of the organizers. He emphasized the factthat "we must not forget the tragedy of the Battle of Okinawa. We mustnever allow it to fade over time. Let us once again take to heart the preciousnessof peace." Further, Morikoshi criticized the restructuring of the U.S.Forces in Japan, which both governments agreed upon in May this year, sayingit was a major revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty that will not leadto the downsizing of the U.S. military bases that RENGO has so strongly demanded.Morikoshi vented his determination saying "RENGO will continue to workon movements nationwide seeking the consolidation of U.S. military bases anda fundamental revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement." Speakingon the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, RENGO Local of Okinawa PresidentYoshimasa Karimata said that "we have told people what they should knowand are watching that knowledge spread across the nation." He urged participantsto remember that "It is crucial to fully understand the contents of theJapan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement in order to turn that knowledge intochange."
Okinawa Prefecture Governor Keiichi Inamine, who was unable to attend therally, submitted a message that was read on his behalf. RENGO Local of Hokkaidoand Japan Postal Workers' Union presented peace messages from the workplaces.After which, the Peace Flag was handed to the next Peace Action venue – Hiroshimaand the Peace Action will continue there. In conclusion, the body adopteda Peace Appeal from Okinawa.
The next day, attendees, under the guidance of youth committee members from RENGOLocal of Okinawa, visited two separate observation tours: the remains of thesouthern battle site and the American military bases. Following the tours, attendeesconducted a rally before the gate of the Futenma Air Base to demand the downsizingof U.S. military bases and the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.Then, they staged a protest march on the way to the campus of Okinawa InternationalUniversity where a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed in 2004.
Sixty one years ago during the closing stages of the Pacific War, some twohundred thousand precious lives of Okinawans and others were lost in the fightingbetween the Japanese and U.S. military forces when the latter landed on Okinawa.June 23rd is the day that the Japanese forces gave up organized resistance.That these were some of the most severe ground attacks of the Pacific War resultedin a far greater loss of civilian victims than military personnel, and thefertile green islands were mercilessly burnt to the ground. The Okinawans weremade into scapegoats to buy time for Japan’s homeland defense and to maintainthe national polity.
We should never forget the tragedy of the Battle of Okinawa. We must notlet it fade away.
Today, the Okinawa Prefectural government held a "Memorial Service forAll War Dead in Okinawa" at the Mabuni Memorial Peace Park in Itoman city.Various memorial services are being held across the prefecture. We, togetherwith people of Okinawa prefecture, offer our profound condolences to allthose killed in the Battle of Okinawa. We will keep in our hearts the brutalreality of the tragedy and inhumanity that war brings and renew our vow topray for the repose of those souls lost in the war and to never war again.
Okinawa was occupied by the U.S. military and even after it was returned toJapan in 1972 approximately 75% of the exclusive U.S. military installationsin Japan were concentrated on this island which comprises only 0.6% of itsentire land mass. These bases even now place a heavy burden on the lives ofthe Okinawan people.
The realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, which both governments agreed toin May this year, represents a huge revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treatyand does not lead to the downsizing of the U.S. military bases that we haveso strongly demanded. Furthermore, the problem of its financial burden on theJapanese government is drawn fire from our citizens.
In the area where the U.S. Forces are to be relocated, there are concernsover the environment and the lives of the citizens and we want to see effectivemeasures taken that will reduce the burdens locally.
At the same time we need to keep in mind policies that secure the jobs ofour fellow workers at the bases, protect the rights of landowners, the conservationof the environment, as well as possible land uses after the base facilitieshave moved.
The sole reason that American bases even exist in Japan and that the U.S.Forces can operate here is due to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.The problems in the Status of Forces Agreement are the cause of an unendingstring of accidents and incidents. In a word, it is this framework that allowsthe U.S. Forces in Japan to ignore Japanese sovereignty.
The Japanese government has only made matters more obscure by perfectingthe application of the seriously-flawed Status of Forces Agreement withoutany reexamination of it in the last 45 years since the Agreement was concludedin 1960; and the government still shows no sign of fundamentally resolvingthe problems. RENGO has formulated a draft for fundamental revision of theJapan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Both Germany and Korea succeeded inrevising their Status of Forces Agreements. Japan also must revise its Agreementbased on our revision draft.
RENGO will conduct four peace movements starting with this "Peace Actionin Okinawa" and then move on to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Nemuro. RENGO,GENSUIKIN (Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs), and KAKUKIN Kaigi(National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons) will co-host a jointconvention for the abolition of nuclear arms at the A-bomb sites in August.In September, all the organizations that support our movements will assembleat Cape Nosappu in Nemuro-city for an organized movement seeking the returnof the Northern Territories to Japan.
Let us combine the power of the laborers in the workplaces and localitiesin order to make these four Peace Actions a success!
June 23, 2006
RENGO 2006 Peace Okinawa Rally