By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: February 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
`Ano`ai kakou… On January 11th, I was invited to speak about the merits of the Akaka Bill at the Small Business Hawaii’s annual conference. Also speaking was Akaka Bill detractor Sandra Burgess, who is one of the plaintiffs in the Arakaki lawsuit and wife of William Burgess, the owner of the anti-Akaka bill website Aloha For All. I was grateful for the opportunity to address this auspicious group because if I hadn’t, they probably would have only heard Burgess’ false, fear mongering, and downright racist remarks.
It was clear that the SBH audience had very little knowledge of Hawai`i’s annexation or the reasons for the passage of the Apology Bill that President Clinton signed into law in 1993. With less than ten minutes to speak, I briefly covered how the Apology Bill set into motion a process for reconciliation between the Native Hawaiians and the United States, which is the whole purpose of the Akaka Bill.
Then it was Burgess’ turn to speak. Here are just a few of the things she said: (1) She asked whether it was fair to non-Hawaiian businesses if Hawaiian businesses paid no taxes; (2) She asked whether we are all Americans and why should Hawaiians be different; (3) She said that if the Akaka bill passes, non-Hawaiians will have to face the question of returning all of their lands; (4) She said that federal recognition will give Hawaiians more power and money to corrupt our State and Federal elected officials who already can’t say “no” to Hawaiians. She even said our Governor is misguided for her support of the Akaka bill; and (5) She said that the Akaka Bill sets up a separate class of people.
I was appalled by Sandra Burgess’ ridiculous statements. She gave no facts to support her position and basically told the audience that the world would end if the Akaka Bill passes. I did my best to explain in my one-minute rebuttal that the Akaka Bill: (1) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to be exempt from state or federal taxes; (2) Doesn’t allow Hawaiian-owned businesses to have an unfair advantage over non-Hawaiian businesses; (3) Doesn’t allow Hawaiians to expel non-Hawaiians or the military from their lands; (4) Doesn’t set up a separate class of people; and (5) Whatever documents are created by the new government must be reviewed by the Department of the Interior and any settlements would have to be approved by the state and federal governments. This allows for checks and balances.
Listening to Sandra Burgess opened my eyes to her and her group’s true motives. They want to create an “US AGAINST THEM” mentality by scaring people into believing the Akaka Bill will hurt them. Let me be absolutely clear that it is not Native Hawaiians who are creating this kind of fearful atmosphere.
We must all find a way to come together, both Hawaiians and Kama’aina united in our common goal, to counter this divisive attitude and stop the noxious seeds of hate that the Burgess’ group is planting from taking permanent root in Hawai’i. Imua e Hawai’i nei…