By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: June 2008 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
`Ano`ai kakou… I wasn’t surprised when I opened the May issue of the Ka Wai Ola to see that fellow trustee Haunani Apoliona listed me first among those that she felt killed her negotiated settlement bill (HB266 HD2). I guess I could see it as a compliment that she thinks I have such powerful influence, but once again, Apoliona misses the point. The truth is, if Apoliona wants to look for someone to blame for the fiasco during this past legislative session, she needs to remember the phrase “the buck stops here,” or at least that is what good leaders presume.
It is obvious to me what killed OHA’s ceded land settlement legislation with the governor on the past due ceded land revenues that are owed to OHA. It was Haunani Apoliona’s sheer arrogance. Apoliona believed that she could just ram her legislation down everyone’s throat, including the legislature.
She also completely misses the obvious fact that we needed to get the legislature’s approval for the settlement. No one likes surprises, least of all politicians. Apoliona also criticizes the five Senators who killed the bill, but what do you expect them to do when nearly a hundred OHA beneficiaries show up and testify against the bill for almost five hours? Her “my way or the highway” attitude doomed the bill from the very beginning.
For The Record
I opposed HB266 HD2 because the bill, if passed into law, would have bound our beneficiaries to a settlement agreement that was signed between OHA and the State on January 17, 2008. The agreement contained language that would forever extinguish all rights afforded to Native Hawaiians under section 4 and 6 of Article XII of the State Constitution. When I questioned OHA’s leadership about this language, they basically told me to not worry about it. Then, after the fact, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa revealed in the May 6, 2008 Honolulu Advertiser that, “OHA leaders told her and other senators that the idea of eliminating future claims in exchange for $15.1 million annually in the future was (attorney general) Bennett’s idea and that they reluctantly agreed. They had to agree to go along with it or the AG would no longer negotiate.” OHA’s negotiating team deceived beneficiaries, the legislature, and fellow trustees by saying the agreement was mutual and that the amended language meant nothing.
Ka Wai Ola Now a Mouthpiece for OHA Leadership
I am truly disappointed with the direction that our Ka Wai Ola newspaper has taken ever since we lost 75% of our newspaper staff last year. There is no longer any sense of fairness or balance in what is being reported to our beneficiaries and, in my opinion, it is now nothing more than a propaganda rag. Nothing critical of OHA’s leadership is ever printed. I have also received complaints from beneficiaries that their letters-to-the-editor are not being printed. This is the first time in the many years I’ve been at OHA that the Ka Wai Ola has been reduced to a publication that, to some extent, is being censored. For example, when an issue is deemed too controversial, somehow, thousands of copies of the newspaper seem to get lost and are not delivered to beneficiaries. Also, as retribution for my past criticisms, you can now find my articles in the back of the paper.
Employee Exodus Continues in April
Three employees left OHA in April. Two were accountants and one of them wrote a letter to trustees saying she felt she was unfairly terminated. The other accountant resigned. I have asked the Administration to discuss these departures at the next Board meeting. The third employee that left was the high-profile manager of Hi’ipaka LLC.
The fact that there was no settlement between OHA and the State is very unfortunate. Especially since Ms. Apoliona has claimed that she and the Governor’s office have been negotiating for three years. This statement, on its face, appears less than truthful when you factor in the fact that the state offered up a couple of pieces of land and wrote language in the settlement document that HAD TO BE ACCEPTED BY OHA or there would be no deal. These actions make it clear that THERE WAS NO NEGOTIATIONS going on at all! There were only “take it or leave it” offers by the state which OHA’s negotiating team finally agreed to.
What is crystal clear now is that the state had every intention to keep all of the best ceded lands and had decided to appeal our Hawaii State Supreme Court decision not to allow the state to sell ceded lands until Hawaiian land claims could be settled. The appeal by the State to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that decision makes the state’s efforts to settle with OHA and the Hawaiian people disingenuous. To add insult to injury, the state has hired the former U.S. Solicitor General under President Clinton (who represented the state and OHA in the Rice v. Cayetano case) to represent the State of Hawaii in their appeal against OHA in the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is time for all Hawaiians to rally together for justice and to replace leaders who do NOT represent their interests in the November 4, 2008 General Election. For more information on how to register to vote or to be a candidate in the OHA election, please call the Office of Elections at 453-8683 (Oahu) or toll free at 1-800-422-8683 for the neighbor islands. Imua e Hawaii nei…