Monmouth rebellion over plans to twin with Japan

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The Independent Online

Burma veterans in the Welsh town of Monmoth have known more ferocious battles, but all their old determination was on show yesterday in the latest skirmish over plans to establish a Japanese twin for the town.

There are signs that it may be a long fight. Last year, Monmouth Town Council was asked to consider twinning with the Japanese town of Ishikawa-Machi and quickly established that local people would not extend a universal welcome to its representatives.

Amid protests that the plan was an insult to those who fell in the Second World War, the proposal was recently voted out - although Monmouth, it should be said, has been happily twinned with the German town of Waldronn for years.

Matters might have rested there were it not for a chain of events which have bound up the destiny of Monmouth's mayor - Eileen Goodrich - with Japan. Her son struck up a rapport with a Japanese girl he met during last year's visit to Monmouth from Ishikawa-Machi's mayor, Tatsuhir Nishimaki, and she now intends visiting the town.

Mrs Goodrich insists her trip is not at the council's expense. But she and her husband have been officially invited to Ishikawa-Machi - a small market town in the Fukushima region north of Tokyo, and the anti-twinning lobby is concerned that the twinning issue may arise again. Tom Moran, aged 78, said yesterday: "Many of my old friends still lie out in Burma and there's a 93-year-old woman in the town who was a prisoner at a Japanese camp in Singapore.

"I bitterly opposed this twinning suggestion. [Mrs Goodrich] is entitled to go there as a private individual but not as the Mayor of Monmouth ... We fear the worst."

Mrs Goodrich insists people are worrying unduly. "My son's girlfriend is Japanese ... It has nothing to do with my opinion of the twinning," she said. "The vote went against twinning. I feel sorry for Monmouth and sorry for the people of Japan, but that was the vote result."

Mr Moran also fears a waste of public money. "Once you twin you are also expected to visit these places," he said. "Germany's one thing but Japan? Well that would be a lot of public expense."