By: Trustee Rowena Akana
December 11, 1998
In his inaugural speech on December 7th, Governor Cayetano made a pledge to the Hawaiian community, “…And I pledge here and now that I will leave no stone unturned in settling the state’s differences with OHA over ceded lands. Before the end of my term we will reach a settlement which is fair and just to all, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian.”
In the short time that I have been the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, I’ve made it clear that one of my priorities is to seek what is fair for our people. We’ve waited much too long for the State and Federal governments to lend credibility to their words. I am hopeful that the governor’s words are not empty words to be added to the pile of rhetoric dating back to the annexation in 1898, when 1.8 million acres of government and crown lands were taken. A Joint Resolution of Annexation provided that money from the ceded lands would be used solely for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands. Since that time we have waited for them to make these words credible. Hawaiians can no longer afford to wait for the governments to keep their words. It should be clear to everyone by now that unless we make things happen, waiting cannot be one of our options.
The Organic Act which established Hawaii as a U.S. Territory, also provided that ceded lands would be used for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands.
As we work toward achieving fairness from the State in negotiations on the Heely rulings, we must be equal partners in these negotiations.
Some suggest that compromise is the key. I whole-heartedly agree. OHA and its beneficiaries have compromised. That’s why we receive only 20 percent of proprietary revenues instead of 100 percent. That’s why the state forced Act 329 upon the Hawaiians. An Act which capped OHA’s revenue at $15 million for two years, while the state worked out its fiscal problems. The cap expires on June 30, 1999. The State is not any closer to any real negotiating numbers than they were two years ago. How serious do you suppose they are in negotiating a settlement with OHA? Some public comments made by the Governor are troubling. He said he was very comfortable with the $15 million cap. Also troubling is the fact that Calvin Say, (the new speaker of the house) had decided not to name a Hawaiian Affairs Committee because, he said it wasn’t important enough! The biggest issue facing the legislature is the ceded land claims! Calvin Say has put Hawaiian Affairs in the hands of the Judiciary Chair (Ed Case, Rep. Manoa). This is the committee that will hear Hawaiian bills and have the ability to change the laws of the land. They want to make sure that they create a bill that will statutorily stand up to muster. So in one fell swoop, they can destroy OHA and the 20% revenue share of cash entitlements. This maneuver is so blatant that the house leadership is confident that they can wipe us out.
I am happy to see that the Governor is publicly moving his position from not being able to afford what OHA is claiming to be its rightful share of revenues from ceded lands to a position of settling our differences.
In advocating for Hawaiian ceded lands and entitlements, OHA must put its best team together to represent us. People who are akamai and experienced. Recently, the Board of Trustees approved a team consisting of myself and Trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask as primary team members.
We trustees must have you alongside us as we journey to our eventual and rightful end: Justice. From now on, it will take all Hawaiians to stave off the attack.