Home' Greymouth Star : February 4th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1783 - Hostilities end between United States
1789 - Electors unanimously choose George
Washington to be the first US president.
1861 - Delegates from six Southern states
meet in Montgomery, Alabama,
to form the Confederate States of
1904 - The Russo-Japanese war
begins when Japan lays siege to Port
1927 - British driver Malcolm
Campbell breaks the world land
speed record in his car Bluebird,
driving at about 280 kph.
1972 - Britain and nine other nations
recognise East Pakistan as the independent
nation of Bangladesh.
1974 - Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of the
late William Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped by
the Symbionese Liberation Army.
1976 - An earthquake measuring 7.5 on
the Richter scale kills 23,000 people near
1983 - US singer Karen Carpenter dies of
anorexia ner vosa, aged 32.
1987 - Death of Wladziu Valentino, better
known as US pianist Liberace.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Friedrich Ebert, German president (1871-
1925); Fernand Leger, French painter
(1881-1955); Charles A Lindbergh,
US aviation pioneer (1902-1974);
Betty Friedan, US feminist author
(1921-1985); Dan Q uayle, former
US Vice-President (1947-); Alice
Cooper, US rock singer (1948-);
Michael Beck, US actor (1949-);
Lisa Eichorn, US actress (1952-);
Gabrielle Anwar, British-US actress (1970-);
Oscar De La Hoya, US boxer (1973-) .
“ No human creature can give orders to love. ”
— George Sand, French author (1804-1876).
“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became
a successful man; he was in the house of his
Egyptian master.” — (Genesis 39.2).
and scientists are
baffled by a shaking
house in Shakespeare
Street. It has been going on for about five
nights now and always happens between 9 and
The housewife who occupies the house has
reported earthquakes at the same time on
Friday and Saturday nights. These reports were
checked out with the Arnold Powerhouse
where seismological readings are taken. There
have been no tremors recorded. In one of these
reports the housewife said the tremor was
strong enough to rattle the windows.
Last night a Greymouth Evening Star
reporter felt the tremor through the house. It
occurred shortly after 9.10pm and lasted about
three minutes. There is no industrial activity
in the neighbourhood and the railway line is
a quarter of a mile away. No trains run on this
part of the line between 9 and 9.15 at night.
Causing further puzzlement is that
neighbours approached have not felt any
movement in their houses.
Music teacher at Greymouth High School,
Miss Patricia Low began this morning her
month-long instruction in quartet playing at
Canterbury University under the tutorship of
members of Indiana’s Berkshire Q uartet.
Miss Low was one of eight violinists selected
from all over New Zealand for the course,
sponsored by the Q ueen Elizabeth II Arts
Council. A place in the course is sought by
musicians from all over the country.
Despite the 22-year-old Miss Low ’s vast
experience, she was first auditioned and then
a tape recording of her playing was sent to
Wellington for adjudication by the council.
uFood for thought
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apan’s Okinawa, a chain of
tropical islands more than three
hours south-west of Tokyo by
plane, looks and feels almost like
a different country. A growing
number of islanders say it should
be just that.
Perennial anger over Okinawa’s
hosting of tens of thousands of
United States troops has flared to a new
level after the election of an anti-base
governor and lawmakers late last year —
victories that have been all but ignored by
those in power in Tokyo.
Hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is
pushing ahead with the construction of a
new base near the island ’s northern city
of Nago, meaning that Okinawans’ homes
will stay on the frontline of the country’s
And in another blow for what is one
of Japan’s poorest areas, the central
government has cut the prefecture’s
“By ignoring our wishes, the Japanese
government is broadening the gulf
between Okinawans and Japanese,” said
Masahide Ota, an 89-year-old historian
and former governor. “If the government
forces this issue, the idea of breaking away
will really catch fire. ”
Abe’s push to amend the pacifist
constitution, giving Japan a more active
military role in the region, has pushed
security onto the political agenda in the
run up to nationwide local elections in
While most agree that the idea of
returning to the days when Okinawa was
a proud kingdom is a dream, the anger
that feeds the desire to break away could
prove a major headache for Abe at the
“ We’re sick of being deceived by the
ruling party,” said Yorie Arakaki, a
44-year-old housewife among protesters
who clashed with police a few weeks ago
as dump trucks came in the dead of night
to start working at Henoko, site of a new
base to replace Futenma air base in central
“ We now see that the will of the people
won’t be honoured.”
Emotions are especially high this year,
the 70th anniversary of the Battle of
Okinawa, which left 30% of the island ’s
population dead. Residents lived under
US rule for the next 27 years.
Even now, Okinawa hosts nearly 75% of
the US military presence in Japan, taking
up 18% of its land area.
Abe’s push to beef up Japan’s military,
driven by China’s growing assertiveness,
has some worried in Okinawa, which
sits some 1600km south of Tokyo. Last
month, buoyed by December’s re-election,
his government passed a record
$42 billion defence budget.
“In the hypothetical case of a military
‘situation,’ Tokyo is so far away it won’t
feel the pain, just like 70 years ago,” Nago
mayor Susumu Inamine told Reuters.
“Then, Okinawa helped buy time for
the home islands, and this thinking
basically hasn’t changed. People on the
mainland want Okinawans to put up with
everything so they can feel safe.”
Everyone agrees that Futenma, crammed
in the middle of a densely-populated
residential area, must be moved. But a
rising number of Okinawans now say
it should be shifted from the islands
altogether. Reasons include the planned
deployment of the controversial Osprey
tilt-rotor aircraft, loathed for its noise,
among other reasons.
“The vibrations make your insides
go numb,” said Kanako Kawakami, a
56-year-old resident of Ginowan, the site
Huddled among a group of 100
protesters, Kawakami was part of a round-
the-clock vigil on a hillside in front of
Camp Schwab, a US base that abuts the
Dump trucks arrived in the dead of
night. In January, an 80-year-old woman
was hurt in clashes between protesters
and riot police.
The bases have always been a devil’s
bargain for Japan’s second-poorest
prefecture, where unemployment is about
75% higher than the national average.
In the rundown city of Nago, Abe’s
vaunted economic growth policies appear
to have had little impact on its 61,500
residents. Some are resigned. “Bases bring
in money,” said taxi driver Masatsune
Naka, 65. “People have to support
To help the prefecture, Tokyo has
provided a generous development budget,
insisting it is not linked to bases.
But after the election of anti-base
governor Takeshi Onaga in November,
and the trouncing of ruling party
candidates in a December parliamentary
election, the government said it was
cutting the budget by 16 billion yen to
334 billion yen in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
And as the percentage of the island ’s
GDP coming from the bases falls —
from 15% in 1972 to 4.9% in 2011
— O kinawans are aware they need to be
Tourism now accounts for nearly 10%
of GDP, including a hefty number of
Freeing up base land for local use would
also allow expansion of growing industries
such as information technology and call
Economically, though, things would be
tough. Okinawa’s GDP ranks alongside
that of the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu.
“There’s no way we’d ever declare
independence, we couldn’t feed ourselves,”
said Satoru Kinjo, head of the local
branch of the ruling Liberal Democratic
But islander anger, and the government ’s
response, could pose a national danger for
Abe. On January 25, nearly 7000 people
gathered to protest the Henoko base in
“The Japanese people will be watching
what happens here,” Inamine, the Nago
mayor, said. “People who have supported
the government and LDP up to now
won’t be able to excuse their excesses
anymore.” — Reuters
Battle for Okinawa
Anti-base activists hold signs reading “Stop landfill at Henoko” and “No new base”, in front of a gate of the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab at the tiny hamlet of
Henoko in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
Caroline Copley and Katharina Bart
As a child growing up near the Swiss
border with Germany in the early 1940s,
Christoph Blocher remembers soldiers
camping out in his family’s garden, ready
to defend the neutral nation against a
surprise attack from the Nazis.
The godfather of the right-wing Swiss
People’s Party, which has unnerved
investors with plans to cut immigration
and demote international law, says the
experience instilled a fierce desire to shield
Switzerland from external influences.
“That sort of experience makes quite
an impression on a four or five-year-old
boy, and it paints a distinct picture of
Switzerland ’s strengths,” Blocher said in
his modest office building overlooking a
train station in Maennedorf, a lakeside
village outside Zurich.
Under the direction of the 74-year-old
billionaire, who speaks in a local dialect
he calls “farmer German”, the SVP has
shaken up the cosy, consensual system
which has governed the Alpine nation
since the end of World War Two.
To his fans, Blocher is a heroic defender
of traditional Swiss values who has
grown a niche party of farmers and small
businessmen into Switzerland’s most
popular political party.
To his critics he is a divisive populist,
who has brought instability to a once safe
haven for companies and investors.
Yet the party won more than 26% of
the vote in the last election, in 2011, and,
according to polling firm Vimentis, is set
to win more than 32% in the next one, in
In May, Blocher resigned from the
parliament in Berne so he could spend
more time furthering his policies through
popular initiatives or referendums, a
particular feature of Swiss politics.
Stopping “mass immigration” and what
he sees as Switzlerand ’s drift towards
the European Union are at the top of
his priority list. “If you’re marginalised
in Berne, then you have to work with
popular initiatives,” he said.
The SVP was the driving force behind
a referendum last year which has forced
the government to introduce new limits
on immigration, threatening its ties to the
In a ‘Save our Swiss gold’ referendum
in November, the SVP tried and
failed to force the Swiss National
Bank (SNB) to buy vast quantities
of the precious metal, despite
warnings from the central bank
that it would cripple its monetary
Such polarising moves have
made it hard for the SVP to forge
alliances in Berne, even though it is
the largest party.
If it wins more than a third of
the vote in the election, blocking
Blocher will become harder, as it
will strengthen the SVP claim to a
second seat in the seven-seat ruling
The son of a pastor, Blocher was
born in 1940 in a village on the
Rhine river, the seventh of eleven
children. He studied agriculture,
and later law, later buying EMS
Chemie, a maker of adhesives
and coatings for the engineering
and automotive industries. The
company exports 90% of its
products and nearly a third of its
employees are non-Swiss.
Blocher says he fell into politics
by chance following a local
zoning dispute. He has courted
controversy ever since, clashing
with the polite, grey traditions of
In 1999, he was sanctioned for
insulting remarks about Jewish
organisations in connection with
restitution claims for Nazi-seized
assets in Swiss banks.
On Friday, Swiss media said two
high-ranking SVP officials face
racial discrimination charges for
a poster used in the anti-immigration
campaign claiming “Kosovars slash open
Blocher denies being a racist. He also
says he does not wish to align with anti-
immigrant, eurosceptic politicians like
Nigel Farage in Britain or Marine Le Pen
His top priority, he said, was to keep
Switzerland, which lies in the middle of
Europe but outside the European Union,
independent and in control of its own fate.
Supporters of Blocher have likened
him to Swiss folk hero William Tell, who
bucked a powerful foreign overlord. He
says the greatest threat to independence
now comes from within, accusing
lawmakers in Berne of secretly plotting to
move Switzerland closer to the EU.
“The Swiss people don’t want to
relinquish their independence but the
politicians still want to surrender it,
they’re just not saying it so openly,” he
With immigration at around 80,000
per year and the net figure double that in
neighbouring Germany, the party strikes a
chord with Swiss who feel their identity is
under threat, rattling the political elite.
Annemarie Huber-Hotz, a former
government chancellor, wants to ban
Swiss parties from launching popular
initiatives. A parliamentary committee
has proposed ways to raise the bar for
referendums, including easier ways to kill
them in parliament.
This has incensed Blocher, who says the
SVP has only sought popular votes when
lobbying efforts in parliament foundered.
Meanwhile, he has looked for other ways
to spread his influence.
In December, outraged journalists at the
Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Switzerland’s
oldest newspaper, threatened to walk out
when it emerged that management was
considering appointing a new editor with
ties to Blocher.
Despite previous denials, it was revealed
in 2011 that he had a stake in another
newspaper, the Basler Zeitung, through
his daughter Rahel. The left-leaning
Tages Anzeiger newspaper responded
by accusing him of having an “oligarch
family: complete with castles, companies,
factories and newspapers. ”
Blocher shakes off the attacks. He says
he will stay active in politics for as long
as he feels up to it. Planned initiatives
include limiting asylum seekers and
ensuring Swiss law takes precedence over
international or European law, which
would, for example, block the appeals
process by immigrants to Switzerland by
overruling European courts.
“If papers and media could kill, I’d have
been dead long time ago,” he said.
Right-wing Swiss firebrand unnerves investors
Former Swiss justice minister and right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) leader Christoph Blocher gestures during an inter view in the
village of Maennedorf, near Zurich.
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