Posted tagged ‘Hawaiian rights’

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.


Ceded lands and judicial politics

June 9, 2010

I got so carried away with baseball yesterday that I neglected to note Ken Kobayashi’s excellent piece on Gov. Linda Lingle’s upcoming state Supreme Court appointment.

Perhaps most interesting was that Attorney General Mark Bennett, once considered the governor’s most likely choice to replace retiring Chief Justice Ronald Moon, isn’t applying.

Bennett says he wants to return to private practice and it has nothing to do with speculation that he couldn’t survive the politics of the state Senate confirmation process, but suspicions remain.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who gave a laudatory speech on Bennett’s behalf when was appointed AG, said there’s no question he’s qualified for the high court from a standpoint of legal credentials, but he could still face a bumpy confirmation ride because of hard feelings over decisions he’s made in eight years on the job.

One sore point: He angered native Hawaiians when he successfully appealed a state Supreme Court ruling barring the sale of ceded lands — former crown lands passed to the state when Hawai’i joined the union.

There may be reasons why Bennett should be disqualified from a judicial appointment, but ceded lands isn’t one of them.

He did his job in enforcing the law as he saw it, and he was right on the law. The usually divided U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Bennett that the state court used specious legal reasoning to effectively overturn provisions of the 1959 Admissions Act.

The AG shouldn’t be penalized for refusing to turn his head from a bad legal ruling for political convenience, and the Senate shouldn’t give single-issue political interests veto power over judicial appointments.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Candidates need to focus on regaining conscience.”


Former Advertiser City Hall reporter Gordon Pang has joined the blogosphere with PangintheHale, which will offer regular insights on local municipal news.

His first piece handicaps the six applicants still alive in today’s anticipated City Council vote on a replacement for Charles Djou. Check it out.

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