Who Has Sovereign Power in Japan? For Whom is TPP Being Promoted? — Symposium for regeneration of health care, food security, housing and environment from local communities held, looking toward the future of Okinawa —

On April 14, 2013, the “Symposium for Regeneration of Health Care, Food Security, Housing and Environment from Local Communities: Looking Toward Future of Okinawa” was held in Haebaru Town Central Community Hall, Okinawa. It was co-sponsored by Okinawa Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, Okinawa Medical Association, Okinawa Medical Cooperatives and Okinawa Min-Iren. The symposium was held in response to the call made by National Min-Iren’s Joint Action Promotion Headquarters to Protect People’s Life, which said, “Let us create a new form of joint efforts in different localities by holding forums and symposiums.” As an undertaking at the prefectural level, this was the second such effort following the symposium held in Nagano in October 2012.

Many different organizations were invited
Flying over Okinawa are life-threatening aircraft Ospreys. The TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) that Abe Government is pressing forward is threatening to destroy agriculture, health care and nursing services in Okinawa.
In this situation, Okinawa Min-Iren’s Joint Action Committee to Protect People’s Life decided to play the role of a bridge between various movements and work with broad range of organizations over specific issues on which different groups can agree and cooperate, including on the TPP and other social problems. Calling for a change in the current situation, Okinawa Min-Iren started visiting different organizations in January 2013. JA Okinawa and Okinawa Medical Association responded positively, saying, “Let us go for it and discuss the future of Okinawa together”, which paved the way to the holding of the symposium.
At the opening of the symposium, President Aragaki Yasuo of Okinawa Min-Iren stated, “Let us explore how to build an independent economic life in Okinawa where people can live safely and without anxiety. Learning from many of you working in various fields, we want to work as a bridge to bring together different movements so that we can together mark a new step forward in this society.”

Fostering insight into right pieces of information
Part I of the symposium was the special lecture by Prof. Maedomari Hiromori of Okinawa International University. With the title, “Okinawa’s Path and Future”, he touched on the way press reports are made today and pointed out the importance of acquiring the “media literacy” — the insight to find out right pieces of information. He emphasized, “The press states that the issue of Futenma is whether to relocate it or not, but the real point is how to abolish it.” “Japan-US Security Treaty is being taken up as the issue of Okinawa only, and many people of Japan cannot regard this issue as one relevant to the whole of Japan. It is necessary to make sure to convey the true information to all people of this country.”

Looking squarely at the future of Okinawa
Part II of the symposium was dedicated to the presentation of views from representatives of different organizations and localities — JA Okinawa, Medical Association, Okinawa Prefectural Government Staff, a doctor, a university professor and a town assembly member. They shared the current situations of their constituencies, future outlook, and their hope for the regeneration of local communities. (Refer to the gist of their speeches)
The symposium was held with the support of 16 organizations and the endorsement of another 20 groups. Despite heavy rain on the day, 430 people participated in the symposium.
Closing remarks was made by Executive Director Makina Motoyasu of Okinawa Medical Cooperatives, who said, “I believe all of us here today shared the vision for creating a future Okinawa, and how to tackle many problems we face in the fields of health care, food, housing and environment. Let us make use of the outcome of this gathering in our joint activities to defend life and to help create our communities where people can live safely without anxiety.” This conclusion was warmly approved by a big round of applause from the participants.

(Article by Miyatake Maki)

Gist of presentations of 6 panelists in the symposium

TPP and its impact on agriculture and farming communities of Okinawa
Kinjo Hideyuki, Executive Director of JA Okinawa

Regarding the TPP, press reports quite often focus only on the issue of agriculture. But this pact would not disclose information for 4 years after final conclusion. Uninformed of its contents, the peoples of member countries have no way of knowing the merits or de-merits of their membership. Who are the targets of the TPP, and for whom is it? What is the so-called “national interests” in joining the TPP? Together with you, we want to promote discussion involving broader public over this life-or-death question for local communities.

Creating environment for children, our treasure
Yamauchi Yuko, Part-time Lecturer at Okinawa University/ Coordinator, Association to Save Okinawan Children from Poverty

Child poverty is the worst form of human-rights abuse. We have long worked on the issue through self-help and mutual cooperation. But such efforts are no longer sustainable. Public service should take them over. Okinawa has the highest rate of birth in Japan. Children are our treasure. Adults must stand up and raise voices on behalf of our children so that they can live fully and freely in the future.

Examining TPP from the standpoint of defending people’s health
Asato Tetsuyoshi, Vice President, Okinawa Medical Association

In the U.S., 40 million people are excluded from medical services. By joining the TPP, the scope of coverage of Japan’s public medical service might be narrowed, and “anytime, anywhere” medical care will be unavailable to people. We demand the cancellation of joining the TPP and continue to urge the government to sustain the current universal health care system, which is the treasured culture of Japan.

Basic Plan and Implementation of Okinawa 21st Century Vision: Future design of Okinawa promoted by all Okinawan people
Nagahama Tameichi, Assistant Director, Okinawa Prefectural Planning and Coordination Department

Okinawa Prefectural government’s 21st Century Vision is to create a “Beautiful Island Okinawa: Opening a new era, building friendship across the world and supporting each other in peace and prosperity”. For the last 40 years, we were only allowed to make a draft of such planning to submit to the national government for approval. For the first time, we have drawn up our own planning as Okinawa prefecture. We are ready to create a new Okinawa for the next 10 years by our own effort.

Let us live a bright and healthy life in our dear old hometown: Building network of health care and welfare services
Ohama Atsushi, Assistant director in charge of home care service, Naki Village Clinic, Medical Care Corporation HSR

It is often said that home healthcare system of Urasoe City is well developed, but in fact there are a number of problems we are facing. We hold regular meetings of different healthcare professionals, through which we try to build partnerships in local communities. By sharing necessary information, we want to create a good home healthcare network, which should play a key role in defending people’s healthy life in the communities.

New form of localism: Looking to a cross-border exchange, taking advantage of strength and geographical characteristics of Yonaguni Island
Tasato Chiyoki, Town Council member, Yonaguni Island Town

Our island is Japan’s westernmost isolate island, located at 111 kilometers from Taiwan, province of China. We used to have free traffic and communication with Taiwan. After World War II, the population of the island shrunk to 1/8. In 2008, the decision to host a Self-Defense Force base raised a controversy. What kind of island should we leave to our children? This is not a place for the SDF, but is a treasure for us islanders. We must not allow our island to be used for war.