By: Trustee Rowena Akana
Source: Letter sent to Star Bulletin Editor on February 8, 2008
I am writing to correct the errors that were made by the Chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affiars and other trustees in their Feb. 7th letter.
First, the letter twists the facts by stating that I rejected former Governor Cayetano’s offer in 1999 while I was serving as the Chairperson of OHA.
What really happened is that the full board voted to reject Cayetano’s first offer, which was much less than the $251 million he later offered, for the past due amounts owed to OHA from 1980.
OHA and the state were also discussing a prospective offer of 20% or 365,000 acres of ceded lands, if OHA would settle on all land claims against the state in the future. This offer would not have included any ocean resources, or any other resource, that the Hawaiian people would be entitled to.
OHA was not able to consider Cayetano’s second offer because five trustees, who include currently serving trustees Haunani Apoliona and Colette Machado, voted to end all negotiations. OHA’s attorney at the time, James E. Duffy, Jr., now a Hawaii Supreme Court Justice, repeatedly advised the trustees to continue the negotiations, but they rejected his advice.
The $251 million that Cayetano offered in 1999 would be worth more than double today if it were properly invested and the 365,000 acres of ceded lands would have meant economic self-sufficiency and a better negotiating position for the Akaka bill.
I believe that Apoliona and Machado wanted to end negotiations because they did not want any credit to go to our negotiating team, which was made up of myself and former trustees Clayton Hee and Mililani Trask.
Apoliona and Machado thought they could negotiate their own deal, one that would serve as their legacy, but nine years later all they could come up with is a watered-down version of our previous deal that we now see before the legislature. Their short-sightedness caused OHA to pay dearly a year later when the U.S. Supreme Court came down with the Rice decision.
Later, the Hawaii Supreme Court threw out Act 304 and suggested that the remedy must now be sought at the legislature. I believe this decision was made by the court because OHA walked away from the negotiating table after the Hawaii Supreme Court had asked OHA and the state to negotiate a settlement.
Also, in light of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s recent injunction preventing the state from any future sale or transfer of ceded lands until the claims of Native Hawaiians have been resolved, OHA should really consider whether a better settlement can be negotiated than the one we now have before the legislature.
I encourage anyone who would like to dispute my statements to speak directly to Governor Cayetano, his chief negotiator Sam Callejo, Senator Clayton Hee, or Hawaii Supreme Court Justice James Duffy. I also have signed documents from the 1999 negotiations to back up what I have written.