Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Takae Village Residents Visit Guam to Share Their Story of Struggle

Okinawa Activists on Guam to Share Struggles and Support Community’s Request to Halt Construction of Marines’ Range at Northwest Field 

FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (October 23,2017 – Hagåtña)  A community collective comprised of members of Independent Guåhan, Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian, the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice, Fuetsan Famalao’an and the University of Guam’s Women and Gender Studies Program are collaborating to host a week-long visit with a group of grassroots activists from Okinawa called No Helipad Takae Resident Society.  

The No Helipad Takae Resident Society is committed to protecting their village, which is the location of the Yanbaru Rainforest, the main source for fresh drinking water in Okinawa and home to thousands of endemic species, many of which are listed as critical or endangered.  In 1957, the U.S. military began using the Northern Training Area in the Yanbaru rainforest as a jungle warfare-training site for U.S. troops.  For two generations, local villagers have struggled with the challenges of living near a sprawling military installation, including the discovery of massive amounts of abandoned ordnance, exposure to Agent Orange, sound pollution, and heavy military traffic.  

Under the 1996 Special Action Committee (SACO) agreement, the governments of Japan and the U.S. agreed to revert 51 percent of the Northern Training Area to the civilian community, with the condition that six new helipads be installed on areas surrounding the Takae district. Local residents were alarmed by the plan for the construction of the helipads, which are located near homes and one elementary school.  The Takae community adopted two resolutions to prohibit the construction of the helipads; however, construction began in 2007 and is now complete.  For the past 10 years, members of No Helipad Takae Resident Society have organized peaceful protests against the helipads. 

The members of the No Helipad Takae Resident Society are calling for the closure of the Northern Training Area.  “In Takae, Okinawa, our worst fear has been realized.  In the early evening of October 11, a U.S. military helicopter crashed in Takae.  Such an accident cannot be tolerated,” expressed Yukine Ashimine, a member of No Helipad Takae, who is on Guam this week . “Our lives continue to be threatened.  We cannot live safely. To secure our human rights and to save our rich natural resources for the future, we strongly call for all U.S. bases to be removed from Okinawa and for no further live fire training ranges to be built on Guåhan.” 

The Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice (GCPJ) stands in solidarity with the No Helipad Takae Resident Society, recognizing that Okinawa has born the brunt of U.S. militarization in Japan. “We have worked in concert with activists from Okinawa since the signing of the accord in 2006 between the governments of the U.S. and Japan to move U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guahan,”  said Coalition President LisaLinda Natividad. “Our communities suffer so many of the same problems to include toxic contamination, land dispossession, and crimes committed by U.S. service members. We collectively stand against militarization as we strive for a peaceful world.”     

Independent Guahån also expressed solidarity. “We are sincerely grateful that the women of the No Helipad Takae Resident Society are here on Guam to convey their stories and struggles to our community, as we are potentially positioned to face the same struggles with the relocation of Marines to Guam,” said Independent Guåhan Educational Development and Research Chair Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero.  “We stand in solidarity with them, as they are here in solidarity with us and with our own efforts to protect Litekyan and work toward the empowerment of our people through decolonization. We appreciate the parallels in our efforts to oppose the destruction of our natural environment, the contamination of our Northern Lens Aquifer, and the fight for the protection of our ancestral homelands and historic properties.”

The collective, along with the members of No Helipad Takae Resident Society, are hosting two free public events this Monday and Tuesday. The details are as follows: 

Monday, October 23, 2017, 6 - 8 p.m., University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall
The documentary film Takae, the Forest of Life, which details the hardships the Takae community faces in protecting nature and life in Okinawa, and their collective struggle to demilitarize their home, will be screened followed by discussion.   

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 6 - 8 p.m., University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall
A public forum on the historical connections of U.S. militarization and resistance efforts in Guam and Okinawa will be held. The Panel will include:  Dr.  Catherine Lutz of Brown University; Dr. LisaLinda Natividad of the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice; Sabina Perez of Prutehi Litekyan; and Yukine Ashimine and Ikuko Isa, with translator Mizuki Nakamura of No Helipad Takae Resident Society. Dr. Vivian Dames of Fuetsan Famalao’an will  moderate. 

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