Thursday, November 19, 1998
THE departure of Newt Gingrich from the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives has its parallel at the state level in the challenge to House Speaker Joe Souki. Gingrich announced he was stepping down in the wake of criticism of the disappointing showing of Republicans in the mid-term congressional elections.
Challenge to Joe Souki
as House speaker
Souki is also under fire from members of his own party. They regard him as a symbol of the status quo in state politics at a time when many voters seem to want change, as reflected in Ben Cayetano's narrow re-election to a second term as governor.
There are also parallels between the U.S. and state House on successors. In Congress, the choice is Bob Livingston of Louisiana, chairman of the Appropriations Committee and an ally of Gingrich. This is not a hostile takeover. Gingrich is stepping down because he knew he couldn't win re-election as speaker.
At the state House, Calvin Say, chairman of the Finance Committee, is mounting a challenge to Souki. But Souki says he considers the younger Say a friend and takes pride in his development as chairman of this key committee. Say has been a member of the Souki team in the House. Souki may withdraw in favor of Say. If Say wins the speakership, any changes are likely to be more of style than substance.
Souki hurt both himself and the Democratic Party by accepting a big commission on a Maui land deal involving the Bishop Estate and then opposing limits on the pay of Bishop Estate trustees. Replacing him could improve the Hawaii Democrats' image -- which badly needs some cleaning up.
A major obstacle to the restoration of the Waikiki Natatorium has been removed. The state attorney general has issued an opinion that the natatorium does not meet the state definition of a swimming pool because it contains seawater. This opinion takes the state Health Department out of the approval process for the restoration.
The department had posed questions about the water quality in the pool, raising the possibility that it could not be used if the department refused to issue a permit. One of the principal arguments against proceeding with the full restoration of the memorial no longer is relevant.
The design for the restoration provides for complete flushing of the pool several times a day, ensuring that the water quality will be the same as in the surrounding ocean. This should satisfy all reasonable health concerns even though conditions will not be the same as in fresh-water pools.
The natatorium in its present crumbling condition is an eyesore and a safety hazard, the result of decades of disgraceful neglect by state and city politicians. The fact that it was built as a memorial to Hawaii's World War I veterans was ignored. To his credit, Mayor Harris has pushed for full restoration, as urged by preservationists, water sports enthusiasts and veterans groups.
Opposition has stemmed mainly from users of the adjoining beach who do not want to share the area with people who would be attracted to the restored natatorium.
Last week six members of the City Council introduced a resolution urging the state to take back jurisdiction over the natatorium. But Harris said he had talked to Governor Cayetano about the matter and the governor has no intention of doing so.
It's time for the Council to end this stalemate. It should proceed without further delay to issue the permits required to allow the $1.5 million project to begin and this eyesore on the Waikiki oceanfront to be removed.
THE $22 billion judgment handed down in 1996 by a Hawaii jury against the estate of the late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos seemed incredible to us at the time and we are pleased to note that the Hawaii Supreme Court agrees. The court overturned the verdict -- the largest court judgment ever awarded in the United States -- ruling that evidence presented during the trial was "too speculative" to support the jury's finding.
The golden Buddha
Obviously it was impossible to collect such an amount even if the verdict was upheld. Not even the Marcos fortune would come close to that astronomical figure.
More fundamentally, the basis of the claim -- that a man named Rogelio Roxas found a treasure in gold bars and a solid-gold statue of Buddha hidden in tunnels outside Baguio City but was stripped of the fortune by the Marcos regime -- was difficult to accept. Stories about a fabulous treasure amassed by a Japanese general from occupied Asian countries during World War II have circulated in the Philippines for decades but have never been verified.
Roxas died in 1993, three years before the trial. The suit was filed on behalf of a corporation set up by Roxas before his death.
While setting aside the $22 billion verdict, the Supreme Court upheld Roxas' claim to the gold statue of Buddha and 17 gold bars. It sent that portion of the case back for recalculation of their value. However, until those items are produced, we will remain skeptical of their existence.
A more important case is that of the thousands of victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime. Efforts to collect at least part of the nearly $2 billion judgment handed down in federal court here on their behalf are continuing.
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