Tuesday, October 3, 2023

What did the Okinawa Governor say in Geneva?

On September 18, 2023, Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa, Japan under the auspices of Shimin Gaikou Centre (Citizens' Diplomatic Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) testified to the session for the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Tamaki was the first Okinawa governor in eight years to deliver a speech on the problem of military bases on the island at a UN Human Rights Council meeting. In 2015, then-Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga spoke out against the creation of the Henoko airfield as a replacement for the one at Futenma. Onaga stated "the Okinawan people are being deprived of their right to self-determination and their human rights." Tamaki declared the same.

In Geneva, the current governor held talks with officials with a number of officials with HRC. He was to speak again at the Council, at a meeting on toxic substances, but there was not enough time. Some speakers reportedly had gone over their time. Funny how that happens.

His plea to respect of the human rights of Okinawan people and to lessen the burden of military bases on the islands was countered and condemned by the Japanese government and the rightwing press.

FOR AN AUDIO RECORDING CLICK HERE, click the > at the right and click play
For context see: Commentary by Takya Nishmura.

ID with IE on international order
Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the governor of Okinawa Item 3: interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order - Interactive Dialogue
(193 words, 2:28:11 minutes)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I am Denny Tamaki, Governor of Okinawa, Japan.

I am here today to ask the world to witness the situation in Okinawa, where the concentration of the American bases threatens the peace, and prevents equal participation in decision-making.

Okinawa covers only 0.6% of Japan’s total land area, but 70% of all the U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated on our small island.

Furthermore, the Japanese government is imposing the construction of a new American base in Okinawa by reclaiming the precious sea areas, which I believe will further increase the burden on my people. The reclamation proceeds despite the fact that it was clearly opposed by Okinawan voters in a democratically-held referendum.

We are afraid that the build-up of military capabilities will increase tensions in the areas around Japan, and lead to unexpected situations. This is totally incompatible with Okinawan people’s aspiration for peace.

We call for the stronger diplomatic efforts by the relevant governments to embody in our region the “right to peace,” which was adopted at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here today.

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