TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
September 2003 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
Despite the combined efforts of OHA, Governor Lingle, our Congressional delegation, and countless grassroots organizations, the Akaka-Stevens Bill (S.344) did not make it to the floor of Congress for a vote before the Fourth of July recess. We are now working to ensure the bill is voted on the floor of Congress before it recesses again for the holiday season.
In 2004, both Republicans and Democrats will be concentrating on who will occupy the White House for the following four years. As most lobbyists know, members of Congress become extra cautious during an important election year. Congressmen who may or may not have an opinion about the bill will not vote for a bill if they feel it will upset their colleagues or prove to be controversial for them in their own elections.
It is a sad day when doing the right thing could be considered controversial. No matter how many historical facts are presented, no matter all the legal justification offered, getting Congress to do the right thing is easier said than done.
The political status of Native Hawaiians is a serious matter that should never be used as political leverage between Democrats and Republicans. By doing so, our effort to achieve federal recognition become much more difficult. At home, both political parties have strongly supported our efforts and have publicly agreed that this is a nonpartisan issue. However, comments in the newspapers accusing one party of not doing enough only proves that this is not the case. Accusations such as these can only hurt our overall efforts.
If the Native Hawaiian community and the general public are to believe that both political parties are working together for the best interests of our community they must prove it by ending their finger-pointing in the media. All of us are tired of this kind of behavior.
The quest for power and control over political offices by the parties is, in my view, the very thing that is destroying the trust between the people and their elected leaders. Where does the public fit in this picture? Are we just pawns to be used as “political footballs” to gain footholds into political power structures?
Passing the Akaka-Stevens bill is the first real step in correcting egregious acts done against us over 110 years ago. The political blame-game must stop. If this is truly a nonpartisan effort, what should it matter which political party takes the most credit. After all, isn’t it the right thing to do? The point is, how can we convince others of the importance of the Akaka-Stevens bill if we cannot work together in good faith at home?