By: Rowena Akana
Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA
For a brief moment in time I could imagine how 109 years ago our Queen must have felt, surrounded by members of her own cabinet who had betrayed her. Most painful must have been to see those Hawaiians in whom she placed her trust betray that trust. As I sat in a Hawiian Affairs hearing at the Legislature on February 5, listening to testimonies being given by Hawaiians for and against OHA, I saw before me the very reasons why it has taken us so long, as a people, to unite.
Some people testified with no real purpose except to be heard and noticed, while others had very selfish and personal reasons. Most disturbing were those Hawaiians who testified that the native Hawaiian Trust was only for them, the 50% or more blood who resided on Hawaiian homestead lands. A position taken by the SCHHA, a private organization created to represent the Hawaiian homesteaders. These people fail to recognize that there are more native Hawaiians living off of the homelands than there are who reside on the homesteads. This attitude is divisive and will only create a greater distance between all Hawaiians and those who feel that they have special rights to any entitlements because of their blood quantum. If these kinds of attitudes prevail, it will be impossible for all Hawaiians to come together to form a nation.
One only need look at history to know that a divided nation cannot stand. It is disheartening to see that within OHA, some of us are willing to work no matter who is in the leadership, while others who are not, have refused to work by serving on committees.
For the past four and a half months this has been the case at OHA. While some of us use our columns in the OHA newspaper to discuss positive programs and issues, we have at least two trustees who continue to focus on negative things. These same trustees now want to overturn the board leadership again after refusing to work for the past four and a half months while collecting a paycheck. These trustees are Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, and Oswald Stender. In early January the board of trustees passed OHA’s package of bills to be submitted to the legislature. In the February 5th hearing we had one trustee, Oswald Stender, support the Hemmings bill that would destroy the OHA public trust and create a private trust with OHA’s assets to be put in a trust account. This position was contrary to the positions taken by the full board in January 2002.
How can these actions be explained to our beneficiaries? Is the community right about the grab for power being more important than providing services for our beneficiaries? Are they right about some trustees trying to destroy the very fabric of OHA from within?
Somewhere in the middle of this very important legislative meeting, Trustee Apoliona is seen passing a note to the committee clerk and seconds later Senator Hemmings is heard to proclaim that according to a press release that he waves in the air which he just received, the OHA board will reorganize itself on February 13, 2002 and maybe the OHA bills being heard today need no further action. Amazingly, no one notices as Apoliona slips quietly out of the room Stunned by the announcement after sitting for almost five hours trying to explain and defend OHA’s position on various bills that were bing discussed, I am immediately descended upon by the media for comment based on Hemmings’ announcement. A sick feeling hovers over me as I try to appear composed to answer the questions being asked when all the while my mind is reeling thinking about how this folly will be perceived by the general public, our beneficiaries and the legislature. Does this move make our whole organization look foolish? Yes. Is the timing bad because of the legislative session ahead of us and the importance of unity is imperative? Yes. Is there a good reason for the change in leadership, and if so, what is that reason? Did these five members of the board think about the public reaction to this action and the possible repercussions of their actions? It is obvious to me that these questions are of no importance to them.
We need not worry about the Twigg-Smiths, Conklins, Baretts, and Burgesses. We need only to look among ourselves to see the traitorous dogs who lay in wait for just the right moment to deliver us up to our enemies.
And so it is that I wonder what is to be the fate of our people with this kind of leadership, and will it take another hundred years before any nation is formalized and, in the meantime, what will become of Hawaiian entitlements as we know them, but more importantly, will there be anything left of the spoils in a hundred years after the Hawaiians have picked each other’s bones clean.