Money matters in politics. This is something Okinawans locking horns with the central government over the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corp Air Station Futenma seem to have cottoned on to, setting up a private-sector fund to promote their anti-base cause.
Local business executives and former political leaders on Thursday announced the creation of a “Henoko Fund” to solicit donations from the public. They plan to use it to fund opinion ads in newspapers in Japan and the U.S. to present their case against moving the air base from a residential neighborhood in Ginowan to the coastal district of Henoko in Nago, northern Okinawa.
“It’s important to convey our message directly and indirectly to the U.S. government and the American people,” fund backer Morimasa Goya, chairman of the Naha-based construction and retail company Kanehide Group, said at a news conference in Naha.
The other campaigners behind the project are Chokei Taira, CEO of hotel chain Kariyushi Group; Tokumatsu Nagahama, CEO of food supplier Okiham; former Kadena Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi; Fumiko Sugawara, the widow of late actor Bunta Sugawara; and former Foreign Ministry official Masaru Sato.
Sugawara has embraced a cause that was dear to her husband, a visible campaigner against the base’s relocation. He appeared at a rally attended by 10,000 people in Okinawa last November, less than a month before his death from cancer, said Hiromu Nakayama, an official at Kanehide, which is temporarily serving as the fund’s secretariat.
Nakayama added that candidates for director and secretary-general of the fund, as well as its future plans, will be discussed next week.
Thursday’s news conference was attended by about 30 people, including Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, who was elected in November on a platform to move the base out of the prefecture.
“We would like to join forces with many people in Okinawa,” Onaga said.
Information from Kyodo added