Friday, February 21, 2003

Isle groups blast
internment remarks

Two resolutions are being
considered by the state House
to "educate" Rep. Coble

By Pat Omandam

Local legislators and civil rights groups have joined a national outcry over remarks this month by Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, of North Carolina, in which he agreed with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"I just thought it was really inappropriate for a U.S. congressman to be making such statements," said state House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke (D, Dowsett Highlands-Punchbowl). "For him to say that the internment of the Japanese Americans were justifiable, I just found that really appalling."

The state House Judiciary Committee amended and then approved two resolutions yesterday that request U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to "educate and sensitize" Congress about World War II internment. The original version of the measures had called for Hastert to "review the fitness" of Coble to continue as chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. But legislators toned it down to avoid being too partisan.

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The two measures, House Concurrent Resolution 26, HD1, and House Resolution 30, HD1, go to the House floor for a final vote after the Legislature returns from its five-day recess Thursday.

Coble, 71, stated on a Feb. 4 radio talk show in his home state that he agreed with the internment of Japanese Americans because "they were an endangered species" and "it wasn't safe for them to be on the street."

He said like most Arab Americans today, most Japanese Americans during World War II were not America's enemies, but "some probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."

Coble said later that he regretted his remarks and meant no disrespect.

State Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae Iki) wrote Coble yesterday to say she was distressed that his opinion might be attributed to all Republicans.

Marumoto, who spent time as a child in an internment camp in South San Francisco, urged Coble to re-examine his comments and reassure minority groups that such camps will never be used again.

National advocacy and civil rights groups have urged Coble's resignation as subcommittee chairman, including the Japanese American Citizens League, the and the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium.

Harry Yee, chairman of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, in written testimony, said Coble's remarks raise serious questions about his fitness to continue leading an important and sensitive subcommittee.

"In times of crisis, our nation must not allow the civil rights and liberties of a minority group to be swept away by fear, stereotyping and innuendo," Yee said.

In 1983 a U.S. Congressional Committee on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded there was no probative evidence that any Japanese American posed a threat to the nation's security during World War II.

U.S. Rep. Howard Coble
Japanese American Citizens League
Organization of Chinese Americans
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

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