Governor trying to strongarm ceded land deal

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter to the Editor, The Maui News, April 18, 2009

Senate Bill 1677 is the only surviving bill that would provide any protection to ceded lands from being sold or exchanged. While it does not provide the complete moratorium that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs wanted, it does require a majority vote of both the House and Senate to approve the sale or exchange of ceded lands. It also requires that the community be briefed regarding the location of the lands prior to its sale or exchange.

Unfortunately, state Attorney General Mark Bennett and House Speaker Calvin Say are now holding the bill hostage in an attempt to browbeat the OHA trustees into dropping our lawsuit against any further sale of ceded lands. At this writing, SB1677 has been deferred from the final vote on third reading for four days in the House. Gov. Linda Lingle has made it clear that she will not sign the bill unless we drop our case.

Both Lingle and Bennett do not have any interest in doing what is right for Native Hawaiians. If the Lingle administration truly won the recent Supreme Course case, like Bennett has bragged about in the media, why do they want us to drop the case while it’s being reconsidered by the Hawaii Supreme Court? Also, if they really don’t intend to sell or exchange any ceded lands in the near future, why won’t they just pass SB1677 instead of threatening to kill it?

There is no reason for OHA to drop the case at this point because the Senate will most likely not accept the House’s changes to SB 1677 and we would just end up dropping the case for nothing. Settling the case with the Lingle administration without a moratorium on the sale of ceded lands would only anger our beneficiaries. We would also be sending the wrong message to the Hawaii Supreme Court.