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Editorials
Monday, May 17, 1999

Preserving Niihau’s
unique character

Bullet The issue: The existence of the unique Hawaiian community on Niihau is threatened by the closing of the Niihau Ranch.
Bullet Our view: The state should try to accommodate the concerns of the island's owners regarding the requirements of an archaeological study.

THE struggle to preserve the uniquely Hawaiian character of the Niihau community by barring access to nonresidents has been waged for decades by the island's owners, the Robinson family. It isn't getting any easier. The economic base of the community, the Niihau Ranch, is out of business after 135 years and the family is looking for alternative sources of income.

That is the reality Governor Cayetano found when he visited Niihau recently. The employment rate there is 100 percent. The governor asked, "You mean there's no work for these young guys?"

The answer is no. Manager Bruce Robinson ticked off the bleak negatives on the ranch's former activities. "Cattle ranching is dead. Sheep ranching is dead. Honey is dead. Even charcoal is dead."

The Niihauans are now drawing welfare benefits. But as Keith Robinson noted, under the new law, welfare is limited to five years. "In a very short time the people here are going to be in a world of hurt," he pointed out.

That's why the Robinsons were receptive to a Navy proposal to use Niihau for a missile-testing program at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. There would be limited launches of target missiles and installation of equipment to monitor the launches. This would provide some work for the Niihauans but would supposedly not affect their lifestyle.

However, the Robinsons balked over a state government requirement for an archaeological study of the island, which they claimed could lead to unwelcome visits by Hawaiian activists. They argued that there are no artifacts at any of the sites the Navy wants to use, so no study was needed.

The governor said, "I feel in my heart that I must do everything I can to help the people of Niihau." But it wasn't clear whether he would or could waive the archaeological survey, which was required by the state historic preservation officer, who is also chief of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Perhaps the state can convince the Robinsons that the archaeological survey would not have the dire effects they fear. An attempt should be made to reach some sort of accommodation.

One alternative would be tourism, which could destroy what remains of the island's isolation if not sharply restricted. Keith Robinson said tourists might be permited to visit Niihau's beaches by boat.

There is also the possibility that Niihau would be abandoned. Many of its 150 Hawaiians already spend part of the year living on Kauai. It would not be difficult for them to move there permanently. But that would mean the end of this unique oasis of Hawaiian culture -- which no one wants.

Tapa

Arson trial

Bullet The issue: Joseph "Joe-Boy" Tavares is on trial on charges of arson, extortion and robbery in the 1991 destruction of movie and production trucks.
Bullet Our view: Punishment of those responsible for these crimes is important for the future of Hawaii's film industry.

THE trial of Joseph "Joe-Boy" Tavares on charges of arson, extortion and robbery has implications for the future of Hawaii's film industry. This is a case involving the destruction of movie production trucks that forced two competing companies, Mo-kulua Consultants and Auto Mastics, out of business. The 1991 fires damaged Hawaii's reputation in the movie and television industry and may have discouraged industry executives from filming here.

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg argued that Tavares "was motivated by lust for power to control the movie and TV production business in Hawaii." Tavares, a transportation coordinator and Teamsters union member, was affiliated with George Cambra, who has already testified in his own trial that he gave Tavares fuel to burn his competitors' trucks. Cambra pleaded guilty to conspiring with Tavares to commit arson. His sentencing is scheduled for October.

Tavares' attorney, Richard Hoke, claimed that Tavares is being framed by Cambra and it was Cambra who burned the trucks.

The burning of the film production trucks, valued at $240,000, was a setback for efforts to establish Hawaii as an attractive location for filmmaking. Fortunately that setback has since been overcome and the local industry has had considerable success. However, it's important that those responsible for this crime be punished to demonstrate that such acts will not be tolerated in Hawaii.

Tapa

Greens’ pacifism

Bullet The issue: Germany's Green Party espouses pacifism but is now part of a government that supports NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia.
Bullet Our view: Pacifism may not be consistent with the demands of politics.

GERMANY'S Green Party was founded in 1980 by peace activists and environmentalists. Last September's elections resulted in the Greens becoming part of the ruling coalition led by Gerhard Schroeder. Greens leader Joschka Fischer was named foreign minister.

Now Germany's participation in the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia air strikes in Kosovo has caused a breach in the party. At a convention last week, Fischer received support for continued air strikes on Yugoslavia. But the Greens were bitterly divided. Leaders expressed fears that many anti-war members would quit the party in protest.

Like others before them, today's Greens are finding that the ideal of pacifism may not be consistent with the practical demands of politics, both domestic and foreign.






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