2004 Peace Action in Okinawa
Make Peace and Human Rights From Workplaces/Locally to World!
09 July 2004
From June 21 to 22, RENGO conducted its "2004 Peace Action in Okinawa" which will mark the beginning of a series of peace actions this year. Approximately 850 people gathered from affiliates and RENGO local organizations to participate in rallies, exchanges and "Peace Fieldwork" under the guidance of youth committee members from RENGO Local of Okinawa. It was expected that members from every RENGO local organization would attend the action as they did last year. However, due to the influence of a typhoon there were some local RENGO members who were unable to attend which resulted in a turnout of about half of the participants that were originally expected. Those participants who did attend the action were able to gain a deeper understanding on a variety of matters including the misery of war, the importance of peace, and issues regarding the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. This action will be continued in August in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in September in Nemuro, Hokkaido.
Photo: RENGO General Secretary Kusano said in his opening speech,
On June 21, the Peace Rally opened with a traditional Okinawan dance called Eisa performed by members of the Electric Power Related Industry Workers' Union of Okinawa. The first part of the rally included a message for peace delivered by young people in the form of a poem called "For a Peaceful Earth" and a "Peace Testimony" offered by Reiko Sakiyama of the Shiraume (White Plum) Alumnae Association (students from the Second Prefectural Girl’s High School who served as a nurse corps during the battle of Okinawa in World War II) and Taiko Kodama, a former resident of Japan’s Northern Territories, both of whom spoke about their war experiences. House of Representatives member Kantoku Teruya was also on hand to give a lecture on amending the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.
The second part of the rally consisted of a peace ceremony. In his speech representing the organizers, RENGO General Secretary Kusano laid out four issues: the dispatch of Japanese Self Defense Forces to Iraq, the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military bases in Japan as well as fundamental revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, radical reform of the pension system, and the House of Councilors election.
In his speech, Kusano touched on the issue of dispatching Japan's Self Defense Forces to Iraq severely criticizing Prime Minister Koizumi statement that the SDF would join the multinational military operation. Kusano also reported that RENGO drafted a bill demanding a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Calling on all participants in attendance he said, "We want you all to actively participate in the movement in order to educate people on how unfair the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement is as well as to bring about drastic revision of it."
Speaking on the circumstances that have surrounded Okinawa for the past ten years, RENGO Local of Okinawa President Karimata stressed that "we now stand at a critical crossroads in the peace movement." He continued, touching on the issue of radical revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement stating that "it is a problem for the Japanese people, a problem that questions Japan's very own sovereignty." Calling on those in attendance, he said "let us create a movement while keeping in mind the importance of the peace movement." Then a message prepared by Okinawa Prefecture Governor Inamine was read on his behalf as he was unable to attend the rally due to scheduling constraints.
After various calls for peace were delivered from the workplaces of RENGO Local of Hokkaido and JOHO ROREN (Japan Federation of Telecommunications, Electronic Information and Allied Workers), the Peace Flag was presented to Hiroshima, the venue for the next Peace Action, and the Peace Action was passed on. Finally, the rally closed by adopting the appeal for peace.
On June 22, "Peace Fieldwork" took place under the guidance of youth committee members from RENGO Local of Okinawa who provided two observation tours: one of the remains of the southern battle site and one of the American military bases. The trip to the southern battle site included stops at Abuchiragama cave, Himeyuri-no-To (the famous Tower of Lilies constructed to commemorate the sacrifice of a nurse corps from the First Prefectural Girl’s High School and Women’s Normal School during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II), and Himeyuri Peace Museum. The American military base tour included stops at the Nago/Henoko district (Camp Schwab), the Kadena Air Base, and the Futenma Air Base. Participants were able to see with their own eyes both the scars of the war and the real conditions of the American military bases and earnestly listened to the peace guides' explanation.
On June 23rd, General Secretary Kusano and others attended the Okinawa Memorial Service for the War Dead hosted by Okinawa Prefecture.