政府と沖縄県 地方自治は存在するか

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 3
EDITORIAL: Henoko court battle raises fundamental question of Japanese democracy
(社説)政府と沖縄県 地方自治は存在するか

“Do local autonomy and democracy really exist in Japan?” was the big question as the trial over the government’s plan to build a new U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture got under way.

The question posed by Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga during the trial’s first hearing at the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch on Dec. 2 should be taken very seriously.

The court battle was triggered by the land minister’s move to demand that the central government be authorized to override Onaga’s decision to invalidate his predecessor’s approval of reclamation work off the Henoko district of Nago, a city in the prefecture. Former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima supported the plan to build a new airbase to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the crowded city of Ginowan, also in Okinawa.

When there is a disagreement between the central government and a local entity, it should be worked out through talks.

The Abe administration’s decision to bring the case to the court represents a refusal to seek a solution to this sticky issue through dialogue, a disturbing sign of the poverty of politics in Japan these days.

The focus of the trial will be on the legitimacy of the administrative procedures in which Onaga’s predecessor approved the reclamation work to build a new base, and those that Onaga used to rescind Nakaima’s administrative action.

But questions raised by this trial far transcend these procedural issues. The dispute also raises some fundamental questions about the principle of local self-government endorsed by the Constitution.

The basic principles of local autonomy that have been upheld by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Decentralization call for communities to make their own decisions on local issues of their concern and respecting the right to self-determination as much as possible.

In 1999, the Local Autonomy Law was radically revised in line with these principles.

The revision has transformed the relationship between the central and local government from one of higher and lower or between superior and subordinate to a relationship of equals and of cooperation.

Now that the central and local governments are on an equal footing, the instances in which the central government restricts a prefectural government’s powers should be very limited in application.

From this viewpoint, the Abe administration’s move to file a suit over the case without having sufficient dialogue with Okinawa Prefecture is a far cry from how it should act according to the principle of local autonomy.

The administration warns that trust between Japan and the United States could collapse if the plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko falls through.

If so, why is the administration not trying to win Washington’s understanding of Okinawa’s position on the issue?

Even if diplomacy and national defense are matters that fall within the responsibility of the central government, the intentions of the prefecture involved should not be ignored.

The Okinawa prefectural government argues that the presence of U.S. military bases in the prefecture directly violates its right to self-government.  県は、米軍基地は自治権を直接侵害していると主張する。

These facilities lead to crimes and accidents involving U.S. servicemen and noise pollution by U.S. military aircraft.

The privileges granted to the U.S. forces by the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement hamper the prefectural government’s exercise of its administrative power.

That’s why the prefectural government claims that the construction of a new U.S. military base within Okinawa, which makes up only 0.6 percent of Japanese territory but is home to 73.8 percent of the facilities used exclusively by the U.S. military in Japan, constitutes a violation of its right of self-government guaranteed by the Constitution.

This case has huge implications that go beyond the interests of Okinawa.

If it suggests that the central government can adopt an overbearing attitude toward a local government when they are at odds over an issue, the suit has serious implications for all local governments across the nation.

Japan’s local autonomy and democracy have been called into question by the bitter dispute over the plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko.

We are eager to see the court hand down a ruling that moves beyond simply determining the legitimacy of the administrative procedures involved and addresses the more fundamental issues raised by the case.

by kiyoshimat | 2015-12-04 09:57 | 英字新聞

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