September 19, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo
The first round of oral arguments was held at the Fukuoka High Court Naha Branch (Judge Masamichi Okubo, presiding) September 18 in the “Voiding of involvement lawsuit,” which was filed by Okinawa against Japan after the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation (MILT) voided Okinawa’s decision to revoke permission to reclaim land off the coast of Henoko, part of the relocation of MCAS Futenma to the Henoko neighborhood in Nago.
Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki gave a statement at the courtroom. The day of the arguments was the first and only day of the proceedings, with the decision to be handed down October 23. After the arguments, Governor Tamaki emphasized, “[The lawsuit] is questioning the existence of regional autonomy in Japan.
In the trial, the main point of contention is the legality of the Okinawa Defense Bureau using the Administrative Appeal Act, which is meant to protect the legal rights and interests of citizens, as a “private citizen.”
If Okinawa’s argument is recognized, the revocation of permission for land reclamation will once again become active, halting construction.
In his statement given at the courtroom, Governor Tamaki said, “The government is masquerading as a private individual to use the Administrative Appeal Act, and if their unilateral overturning of the decision made by a local governing body is recognized, true regional autonomy will no longer be a guarantee.”
The central government is arguing, “Since the Local Autonomy Law clearly excludes a ‘decision’ from ‘government involvement’, the subject of the complaint, regardless of the legality of the [MILT minister’s] decision, it does not constitute “government involvement,” and is asking for Okinawa’s lawsuit to be dismissed.
Judge Okubo excluded Okinawa’s request for the examination of the witnesses and a request for an explanation from the central government about the contradiction in their claim as a “request for clarification,” and concluded proceedings.
In the Local Autonomy Law, the “involvement” when the central government intervenes in a decision from a local governing body, is stipulated as, “In addition to doing as little as possible to achieve their goal, they must also respect the autonomy and independence [of the local governing body],” and the suit was raised to void the central government’s involvement in this matter.
Meanwhile, there is a chance that the government’s decision, which was based on the Administrative Appeal Act meant to protect private citizens, will not be ruled as “involvement,” establishing that a lawsuit cannot be filed, which would dismiss Okinawa’s claim.
(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)