By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: November 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
During this past legislative session I strongly opposed HB 266, HD because the bill, if passed into law, would bind us to a settlement agreement that was signed between OHA and the State on January 17, 2008. The agreement contained language that will forever extinguish all rights afforded to Native Hawaiians under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the State Constitution.
Apoliona tried to rush through a settlement with the state so that she could claim she settled our 28-year-old dispute during her bid for re-election. Apoliona was willing to sell-out all Hawaiians, both now and in the future, by signing an agreement that would forever give up any claims we have to land and natural resources. Hoping that no one would read the language of the agreement, Apoliona kept it a secret until she finally revealed it in January to the legislature.
Apoliona was confident that she could sneak this bill through the legislature before anyone caught on to this betrayal. Unfortunately for her, the general public, Hawaiian beneficiaries, and the legislators did not agree that this was legislation that should be passed and over a hundred people testified against it. In the end, the legislature killed the bill and told OHA to take any future agreements out to the public for hearings. This has not occurred as of the writing of this article.
The following is the exact language that was contained in the agreement Apoliona signed:
“For claims on or after July 1, 2008: For each and every fiscal year following June 30, 2008, during which OHA retained the statutory right to receive an annual payment of income and proceeds from the public land trust lands of at least $15,100,000, OHA releases, waives, and forever discharges any and all claims of any kind concerning, relating to, or arising out of each and every claim for damages or any other relief against the STATE, or its departments, agencies, officers, or employees, by the office or any other person or entity, with respect to any controversy, claim, cause of action, or right of action arising out of, or relating to any right OHA or any other person or entity may have to income, proceeds, or any other tangible right, item, or benefit from the public land trust under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the Constitution or any statute or act. Such claims are forever barred, and to the extent any waiver of sovereign immunity for such a suit, claim, cause of action, or right of action still exists, that waiver is withdrawn by the Proposed Legislation.”
The language above also conflicts with the Akaka bill, specifically the section that allows for the United States and the State of Hawaii to enter into negotiations with the future Native Hawaiian governing entity to addressing such matters as the transfer of lands, natural resources, and other assets, and the protection of existing rights related to such lands or resources and also to address grievances regarding assertions of historical wrongs committed against Native Hawaiians by the United States or by the State of Hawaii.
It was for these reasons that I strongly opposed HB266, HD2 and ask the legislative committees to hold the bill until a more favorable agreement can be worked out by the Governor’s administration, the Legislature, Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, and OHA.
Everyone knows that OHA’s mission is to advocate for the betterment of our beneficiaries, so how could Apoliona sign an agreement that would extinguish the rights of all our beneficiaries to future entitlements including rights to surface and ground water and mineral resources?
Since December of 2007, Apoliona has been bullying the administrator about approving my travel to the Cook Islands and questioning why the Premier of the country invited me and not her. Apoliona’s non-stop harassment, micro-managing, and need to control everything has finally proved too much for him.
She recently used a Star Bulletin reporter to question me on why my airfare was more expensive than other trustees traveling on one particular trip to Washington, D.C. This was one of the few times this happened and as those of you who have traveled to the continent know, your ticket price varies based on when you make your reservations. Our trips to Washington are usually based on when the Akaka bill is heard and we don’t have a lot of time to rework our schedules before we can commit to traveling.
Apoliona never mentioned to that reporter that on one of her own trips to Washington, D.C., she spend nearly $9,000! She also never mentioned that she outspent every trustee that ever served on the OHA board, with over $56,000 in one fiscal year of travel.
Astonishingly, even though our Executive Policy manual clearly states that the Administrator has the power to authorize travel for trustees, he has chosen to let the Chairperson take over this duty before the new policy has been officially passed!
Without even the proper authority, Apoliona has denied my travel to South Dakota for official business. For the past five years, I have been a board member of the Governor’s Interstate Indian Council. I am the only non-Indian member. This organization has supported our efforts for federal recognition with five resolutions that have been sent to Congress on our behalf. This organization represents Native Americans and Alaska Natives in all 50 states.
This is one small example of the many punitive things Apoliona does to her fellow trustees who do not support her efforts to overspend, break procurement laws, withhold information from trustees and beneficiaries, and encouraging a “wild west” behavior at OHA for the last five years.
MORE THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Beneficiaries should question why OHA spent over $37,000 on the mayoral debate, but spent zero dollars on a forum or debate for OHA candidates. Wouldn’t an OHA candidate’s forum be more important to our beneficiaries than a mayor’s race?
- Apoliona would never agree to a candidate’s debate for OHA. She would have to answer the many questions beneficiaries have about all the money OHA has spent during her term as Chairwoman with no results or benefits that directly impact our people.
- Everyone should question why Apoliona and her cronies did not question the Governor’s motives for appealing the State Supreme Court’s ruling that said the state could not engage in the sale of ceded lands until it reaches a settlement with Native Hawaiians.
The Governor appealed this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has recently granted the state the right to present its case before them. This is the Governor who said that she believed that the Hawaiian people deserve to be compensated for the wrongs done to them. This is the Governor that Apoliona has been in agreement with in signing-off on the future of entitlements for Hawaiians. Who is Apoliona representing?
Apoliona has put Native Hawaiians in a NO WIN situation. The Governor is fully aware that there is currently no justice for any native people at the U.S. Supreme Court. We all know what happened to us in the “Rice Case” when we went before the Supreme Court. That decision has led to nearly ten years of constant litigation.
In this election year, voters can make the necessary changes and elect people who work cooperatively with others for the benefit of our people, in a manner that is open and transparent. This is my hope for CHANGE.
Apoliona and Machado have proven that they cannot be trusted with the future of our native people. Mahalo Ke Akua.