How Can We Build A Nation When We Have Negative Leaders?

By Rowena Akana
November 22, 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

In the last issue of Ka Wai Ola o OHA, Trustees Apoliona and Machado combined their column to write a fictional piece on me to influence votes against me in the up-coming election. Judging from that article, I am certain you are clever enough to see through it. While I consider it to be petty and a waste of energy, I do believe you, the beneficiaries, are entitled to hear the truth. The truth is that from that article our readers should have a very good idea of what kind of trustees they have been while serving on this Board–full of negativity, criticizing the hard work and efforts of others while contributing nothing.

How can we build a nation with negative leadership?

The negotiating team that they spoke about worked very hard to try and resolve the Heely case. What we presented to the Board was an offer that we could begin serious negotiating with. Trustees Apoliona and Machado, along with three others no longer on this Board, voted to end all negotiations with the State leaving OHA’s fate to be decided by the Hawai’i Supreme court. On September 12, 2001, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled that Act 304 was flawed and referred the Act back to the legislature. The result of that decision has meant zero revenues for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs since July 2001.

For the first time in 22 years, OHA has no income from which to draw to provide funding for existing and new programs and operations. The trust corpus is now at a dismal $244 million with no guidance from the budget chair since February. We are now dipping into the trust to fund all programs and operations. With the stock market in a downward spiral since November 2000, and OHA losing much of the corpus in the market, it is amazing to me that just when you think things are terrible and they couldn’t get any worse, we find ourselves with a leadership that has taken absolutely no action to remedy either situation. Adding to this already grave problem is the fact that OHA along with other Hawaiian Trusts, continue to be challenged in our legal system.

I find it extremely sad and in very bad taste that Apoliona and Machado waste precious time writing negative things and tearing down the hard work of others instead of concentrating on critical issues facing OHA.

How can we build a nation with negative leadership?

I look forward to the elections in the hope that we will have new faces on the OHA Board that will bring new and positive energy to give us all hope for the future. OHA is the only Hawaiian public trust left that all Hawaiians are beneficiaries of. We must at all cost keep that in mind, and work together to overcome the ‘alamihi crab syndrome that is always present among us.

Let us keep our eyes on the prize and keep our focus. We must settle the ceded lands claims so that we will have a land base to build our nation upon. The 1.4 million acres of ceded lands that are inclusive of the DHHL, 250,000 acres, is what we must look at in totality. We must not settle only for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. To do this would mean the rest of the Hawaiian community would be left without a land base. Finally, we must have recognition for all Hawaiians, not just for a few.  Malama pono!

Betrayal and the Grab for Power

By: Rowena Akana
March 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

For a brief moment in time I could imagine how 109 years ago our Queen must have felt, surrounded by members of her own cabinet who had betrayed her. Most painful must have been to see those Hawaiians in whom she placed her trust betray that trust. As I sat in a Hawiian Affairs hearing at the Legislature on February 5, listening to testimonies being given by Hawaiians for and against OHA, I saw before me the very reasons why it has taken us so long, as a people, to unite.

Some people testified with no real purpose except to be heard and noticed, while others had very selfish and personal reasons. Most disturbing were those Hawaiians who testified that the native Hawaiian Trust was only for them, the 50% or more blood who resided on Hawaiian homestead lands. A position taken by the SCHHA, a private organization created to represent the Hawaiian homesteaders. These people fail to recognize that there are more native Hawaiians living off of the homelands than there are who reside on the homesteads. This attitude is divisive and will only create a greater distance between all Hawaiians and those who feel that they have special rights to any entitlements because of their blood quantum. If these kinds of attitudes prevail, it will be impossible for all Hawaiians to come together to form a nation.

One only need look at history to know that a divided nation cannot stand. It is disheartening to see that within OHA, some of us are willing to work no matter who is in the leadership, while others who are not, have refused to work by serving on committees.

For the past four and a half months this has been the case at OHA. While some of us use our columns in the OHA newspaper to discuss positive programs and issues, we have at least two trustees who continue to focus on negative things. These same trustees now want to overturn the board leadership again after refusing to work for the past four and a half months while collecting a paycheck. These trustees are Haunani Apoliona, Colette Machado, and Oswald Stender. In early January the board of trustees passed OHA’s package of bills to be submitted to the legislature. In the February 5th hearing we had one trustee, Oswald Stender, support the Hemmings bill that would destroy the OHA public trust and create a private trust with OHA’s assets to be put in a trust account. This position was contrary to the positions taken by the full board in January 2002.

How can these actions be explained to our beneficiaries? Is the community right about the grab for power being more important than providing services for our beneficiaries? Are they right about some trustees trying to destroy the very fabric of OHA from within?

Somewhere in the middle of this very important legislative meeting, Trustee Apoliona is seen passing a note to the committee clerk and seconds later Senator Hemmings is heard to proclaim that according to a press release that he waves in the air which he just received, the OHA board will reorganize itself on February 13, 2002 and maybe the OHA bills being heard today need no further action. Amazingly, no one notices as Apoliona slips quietly out of the room Stunned by the announcement after sitting for almost five hours trying to explain and defend OHA’s position on various bills that were bing discussed, I am immediately descended upon by the media for comment based on Hemmings’ announcement. A sick feeling hovers over me as I try to appear composed to answer the questions being asked when all the while my mind is reeling thinking about how this folly will be perceived by the general public, our beneficiaries and the legislature. Does this move make our whole organization look foolish? Yes. Is the timing bad because of the legislative session ahead of us and the importance of unity is imperative? Yes. Is there a good reason for the change in leadership, and if so, what is that reason? Did these five members of the board think about the public reaction to this action and the possible repercussions of their actions? It is obvious to me that these questions are of no importance to them.

We need not worry about the Twigg-Smiths, Conklins, Baretts, and Burgesses. We need only to look among ourselves to see the traitorous dogs who lay in wait for just the right moment to deliver us up to our enemies.

And so it is that I wonder what is to be the fate of our people with this kind of leadership, and will it take another hundred years before any nation is formalized and, in the meantime, what will become of Hawaiian entitlements as we know them, but more importantly, will there be anything left of the spoils in a hundred years after the Hawaiians have picked each other’s bones clean.