By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Monday, February 4, 2008
Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin
I am writing to confirm former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s statement in the Star-Bulletin’s Jan. 22 article that his ceded lands settlement offer to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, while he was in office, was a better deal for native Hawaiians than the proposal now before the Legislature. I was the chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1999 when he offered OHA $251 million plus 20 percent of the ceded lands, which is estimated at 365,000 acres.
Following OHA’s victory in the Heely court case, the state of Hawaii appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court, which then ordered the state and OHA to negotiate a settlement.
After only a few months, Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, Frenchy DeSoto, Louis Hao and Mililani Trask voted to halt the negotiations because they didn’t understand that the $251 million was for the past due revenues to OHA and the 20 percent of the ceded lands was to settle future claims.
While it would have been a final settlement, imagine how great that would have been for our people if we had received the 20 percent of all of the ceded lands back then. Not only that, Gov. Cayetano was willing to consider many of the lands that OHA wanted. Our intention was to take the offer out into the community for input, but we never had the chance because of the shortsightedness of those trustees. As a result of OHA walking away from the table, the Supreme Court ruled the Heely act void, and told OHA to go back to the Legislature for a remedy.