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!

Legislative Session 2002 a vital “next step”

By Rowena Akana
December 2001

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

As chairman of the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee, my primary focus in the next legislative session will be to work with legislators to resolve the 20-year old dispute over the ceded land revenue due Hawaiians. We do not intend to address issues which will extinguish any future claims including fishing, gathering, or sea mining rights. The focus is to reassert Hawaiian rights and entitlements that were settled in previous negotiations.

Hawaiian rights have been whittled away by a series of court cases. The United States Supreme Court decision in RICE invalidated the Hawaiians-only vote for OHA. The Hawai’i Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Act 304 invalidates the basis for trust income. This puts OHA in a crisis situation. With the clarifying section of Act 304 invalidated, the court has no statutory guidance, and the income stream of OHA has been crippled. On the horizon is a possible damaging rule in the anticipated challenge to the constitutionality of entitlements for Native Hawaiians. Staying under the aegis of the state has and will run Hawaiian entitlements into the ground. The Hawai’i Supreme Court has emphasized that the state still has an obligation to the Hawaiians. Yet the income stream for OHA has trickled to a stop. The best thing for OHA would be to gain independence from the state and to run the affairs of Hawaiians for Hawaiians. This would remove the stain of unconstitutionality from Hawaiian programs and would allow us to economically develop the lands agreed upon in settlement to make Hawaiians once and for all self-sufficient. Further, it would be the beginning of the building of a nation.

If the state and OHA cannot come to a decision as to a settlement, OHA may have to revisit Act 304 and come up with a formula for payments due to the Hawaiian. However, it must be remembered that after the World Trade Center attacks, our state coffers have less monies and may not be able to offer Hawaiians enough. We must also remember that Act 304 only entitled Hawaiians to a 20 percent revenue share of land fees. This has been a source of great irritation towards the state for the past 20 years. OHA has tried to collect the 20 percent formula since 1980 which has also been the cause of the disputes resulting in several lawsuits. Resolving the land issue once and for all will be beneficial to all concerned. We must not call a settlement on land a global settlement. The term global is far-reaching and really has no meaning between OHA and the state on any kind of settlement.

Several years ago, OHA was in negotiations with the state for a land and cash settlement. Forces in OHA were against this, thus scuttling the negotiations. The misunderstanding of the term “settlement” in the negotiations was considered a settlement offer from the state as a global one. The term “global” was loosely bantered around so that it scared people into thinking it was forever on all issues. They failed to understand that a settlement with OHA over land issues would be beneficial to Hawaiians because we would be able to develop programs for Hawaiians without the worry of whether the state would continue to contest the 20 percent formula or disagree with OHA over what kinds of state income on leases should be exempt from the formula, such as the University of Hawai’i.

I look forward to working with the legislature and constituents as the legislative chair to try to resolve some of the critical issues that have beleaguered OHA for 20 years. I urge you to continue to lend your support towards this goal.