Posted tagged ‘Akaka bill’

Challenges lie ahead for Hawaiian recognition

July 8, 2011

I’d like to feel good about the native Hawaiian recognition act signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, but it’s getting difficult to muster optimism as thorny issues of Hawaiian rights drag out.

The measure forms a commission to establish a roll of qualified Hawaiians, with the hope of eventually leading Hawai‘i’s indigenous people to some form of sovereign self-government.

The problem is that sovereignty implies a measure of independence from the state government, and it’s inherently contradictory for the state to organize the effort after Hawaiians have failed to organize themselves or even agree on a definition of sovereignty in the more than 30 years since the  movement began.

The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which is paying for the new effort, came up short in its well-publicized Kau Inoa program to organize a Hawaiian roll and constitutional convention. Prominent Hawaiian activist Bumpy Kanahele failed to gain traction with a similar effort.

The failure of Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation to pass the federal Akaka bill for Hawaiian political recognition exposes any special rights for Hawaiians granted by the state to legal challenges, as with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Rice v. Cayetano ruling that struck down Hawaiian-only voting in OHA elections.

The gathering for Abercrombie’s bill signing at Washington Place was telling. The celebrants inside were the “haves” among Hawaiians — legislators, OHA trustees, civic clubs, ali‘i trusts — who enjoy considerable power in the broad community and aren’t inclined to greatly rock the boat.

The Hawaiian “have nots” who have little power and want to get it by restoring a truly independent Hawaiian government were out on the sidewalk protesting the bill as a sellout of Hawaiian rights.

No sovereignty drive will achieve credibility until Hawaiians can organize a leadership and agenda on their own and sell it to a critical mass of the diverse population of people with native blood.

Can the Akaka bill survive legislative ineptitude?

July 7, 2010

The Akaka bill for Native Hawaiian political recognition is complex  legislation that has the potential to change life in Hawai’i in the most fundamental ways.

That’s why I always took comfort that for most of its life, the bill had the support of virtually all of the state’s political establishment from nearly every ideological stripe; I figured if something was terribly wrong, somebody would blow the whistle.

For the same reason, it made me uncomfortable when our Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye pulled out major last-minute amendments without bothering to inform Gov. Linda Lingle, costing them her support.

It was highly suspicious that the senators and the Obama administration felt a need to sneak around behind the back of a Republican governor who for seven years had been a solid ally in lobbying for the bill against the grain of national GOP opposition.

The secret changes they made to give a Hawaiian governing entity a high level of immunity from state laws before any negotiations took place were never satisfactorily explained.

Today’s announcement that Akaka and Inouye are amending the bill again to satisfy Lingle’s objections and bring her back on board restores the original political comfort level.

It’s long past time to start resolving festering Hawaiian grievances stemming from the overthrow of their monarchy, and hopefully it’s not too late to get the Akaka bill on the busy Senate calendar and overcome a threatened Republican filibuster before Congress adjourns for the election.

Akaka and Inouye entered this Congress with an early filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the support of a new president born in Hawai’i and the best chance they’ll ever have to pass this bill.

If they end up blowing it because of their inept overreaching, it’ll amount legislative malpractice.

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I look at another kind of political pyrotechnics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Short of banning fireworks, at least pass a decent law.”


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