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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 May 30 - June 5  > Gov’t panel member examining Henoko project pressured to stay away from press
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2018 May 30 - June 5 [POLITICS]

Gov’t panel member examining Henoko project pressured to stay away from press

June 4, 2018

Akahata on June 4 revealed that the Abe government pressured the former vice chair of a government panel studying the environmental impact of the U.S. military base construction in Okinawa’s Henoko to refrain from providing information about the panel to the press.

This revelation has brought into relief the government’t intention to hide the lack of the panel’s responsibility to keep an eye on possible environmental damages caused by the Henoko base project.

The panel’s former vice chair is Ryukyu University professor emeritus Azuma Seiji, an authority in entomology. The panel of the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau is supposed to check to see whether harmful effects on Henoko wildlife are properly prevented.

Azuma told Akahata that the panel’s discussion was, in reality, just to give its OK to offshore work at Henoko and paid little attention to panel members who expressed environmental concerns. He went on to say that protesting against such discussions, he in 2015 handed in his resignation, which was shelved by the bureau for three years and finally accepted in April this year.

Azuma said that when he was officially notified that his resignation was accepted two months ago, bureau officials said to him, “When you receive a press inquiry about the panel, please refrain from giving interviews and let us handle the inquiry.” He said that the request was totally unacceptable.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau told Akahata that it just reminded Azuma that press inquiries about the panel’s discussions should be dealt with by the defense bureau and that this is the understanding of the panel members.

The panel was set up in response to the former Okinawa governor’s call, who gave his nod to the construction of a new military base in Henoko. The former governor was in favor of the project and made the call to form a panel just to give an impression that he paid sufficient attention to environmental issues. The panel is tainted with various allegations such as alteration of meeting minutes and inappropriate donations to panel members from the contractor company.

Past related articles:
> Panel members accepted 13 million yen from Henoko-related works contractors [October 21, 2015]
> Gov’t committee vice chair: committee’s role is to rubber-stamp Henoko base plan [March 20, 2015]
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