sought on OHA
The state and OHA will askThe last Senate hearing on OHA's future
the state Supreme Court to clarify
the status of current board trustees
The next OHA board will likely look very different.
A Hawaiian protest in 1978 closed the Hilo airport. By Pat Omandam
Gov. Ben Cayetano says the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will jointly ask the Hawaii Supreme Court to clarify the status of OHA trustees and whether the governor has the authority to fill any vacancies that may have been created after the Rice vs. Cayetano decision.
The governor, along with OHA Chairman Clayton Hee and state Attorney General Earl Anzai announced the agreement today at a news conference.
The move keeps the current OHA board in place until the Hawaii justices say otherwise or until the November OHA elections.
"Under the circumstances, we believe this is the best course of action to follow," Cayetano said.
The governor explained that over the past week many questions have been raised about the status of trustees following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state's Hawaiians-only election was illegal.
Cayetano said his legal advisors told him the ruling invalidated OHA elections and rendered those positions vacant. Therefore, he wanted to move "as quickly as possible" to protect OHA's trust assets.
"That was the motivation supporting my opinion that I took earlier," Cayetano said.
However, he now believes "the best way to resolve our differences is to petition the Hawaii State Supreme Court for a declaratory opinion to clarify the legal status of the trustees and the legal authority of the state," he said. Cayetano said he's asking the state court for an opinion rather than the federal court because the matter involves state elections.
Hee must take the proposal to the full OHA board for approval at a meeting this afternoon.
Specifically, Cayetano said the state and OHA will take these steps as part of their agreement:
They will ask Harold "Freddy" Rice to join them in assuring the U.S. Supreme Court that no rehearing will be requested. That will shorten the 25-day rehearing period and allow the justices to quickly enter a final judgement.But Cayetano said he will now consider appointing current elected trustees -- a move he dismissed last week. Cayetano said he will meet with each trustee first before deciding if he will appoint them to their elected seats. He would not say whether he would reappoint all or just some of the current board.
They will ask the Hawaii Supreme Court when the term of the current OHA trustees expires and whether the governor has the authority to fill such vacancies.
Cayetano said if the state high court rules there are vacancies and he has the authority to fill them, he will do so.
Cayetano said he changed his mind after Hee assured him the OHA board would respond to the state on some questionable actions they have taken, such as creating a retirement program for trustees.
Hee said yesterday that efforts to find common ground were based on the longtime friendship of Cayetano, Hee and Anzai. Hee said despite Cayetano's earlier comments that the board was "dysfunctional," it does not affect their friendship.
"My view doesn't change of my friend. To know him is to love him," Hee said.
Lilikala Kameeleihiwa, director of the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies, said today she was glad to hear the governor will ask for legal advice on this matter and respect the wishes of the Hawaiian people.
"We elect political leaders, we have the absolute right to do so and we prefer elected leaders to ones appointed by the governor," she said.
It was not clear if the governor's new position would lessen calls for civil disobedience by OHA trustee Mililani Trask and others in the Hawaiian community, who say the Rice decision is the first step in the erosion of their native rights and entitlements.
Trask said anti-Hawaiian forces, spearheaded by the Hawaii Democratic Party, are moving to extinguish all Hawaiian entitlements.
Trask pointed to several areas in Hawaii which would be appropriate sites for peaceful, nonviolent protests.
They include state airports and harbors, the University of Hawaii and educational facilities, and at Mauna Kea on the Big Island. The sites are on ceded land -- land which once belonged to the monarchy but were turned over to the state after the monarchy was overthrown.
Cayetano yesterday said it was "irresponsible" to push civil disobedience at this time.
Meanwhile, about two dozen people testified during a four-hour state Senate hearing on the Rice decision at the state Capitol auditorium.
The last hearing was to be held today in Waimanalo.
Robert Klein, a retired Hawaii Supreme Court justice providing legal counsel to OHA, told senators the most cautious action is to wait until the federal court issues a judgment on the case.
Senate Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said she intends to move two bills relating to OHA to the House. House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Eric Hamakawa (D, Hilo) said he will consider the Senate proposals although his panel killed three House bills relating to OHA elections.
Cayetano said he supports the election of OHA trustees by all voters and doesn't believe trustees should selected by gubernatorial appointment.
Star-Bulletin reporter Christine Donnelly contributed to this report.
Situation solidifyingBy Lori Tighe
Their voices rose in anger and lowered in pain of betrayal yet again.
But beyond the emotion, hundreds of Hawaiians vowed to make the Rice v. Cayetano Supreme Court decision their rallying cry for uniting and fighting together.
"OHA stands for Office of Hawaiian Affairs, not Office of Philippine Affairs," said Art Frank, a Hawaiian activist from Waianae, referring to Gov. Ben Cayetano's decision to remove the OHA trustees and appoint an interim board.
"The Hawaiians have been screwed, blued and tattooed for years, when is it going to stop?" Frank said to rousing applause. "It's time for us to stand up and fight for ourselves."
Frank also urged support for OHA trustee Mililani Trask's call for civil disobedience.
"I agree with civil disobedience," he said. "We have to show our support. Hawaiians are sick and tired of being stepped on."
Nearly all of the estimated 300 Hawaiians who attended the special senate hearing last night at Nanakuli to discuss the decision that invalidated Hawaiians-only voting for OHA trustees agreed the governor should leave the current OHA trustees in place.
They also agreed the time to fight has arrived.
"We do not stand defeated," said OHA trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto. "After placing our faith in the state, we now have decided to rely on ourselves."
Even the senate committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs, who has held six meetings on Rice v. Cayetano throughout the islands, agreed the trustees should stay.
"It's been very clear everyone is in support of the trustees. We may not agree with everything they do, but that's OK," said Committee Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa.
The senator from Waianae emphasized the Supreme Court decision only pertains to voting for the OHA trustees. It doesn't open up the trustee positions to non-Hawaiian candidates, which is protected under the state constitution. Neither does it open up other Hawaiian programs for attack, Hanabusa said.
"I'm so angry I could scream," said Georgette Meyers, of Na Opio Aloha Aina, who testified. "We will fight this believe me, and we will win."
Meyers then turned to the senate committee and said, "Do not make any more amendments to amendments to amendments. It only confuses us," which received vigorous applause.
Waianae fisherman William Aila said if one used the governor's underlying reasoning of removing the OHA trustees because they're dysfunctional, then politicians throughout the state should be removed.
"The governor, the Legislature and the City Council have all been dysfunctional. They should all be removed," Aila said.
He acknowledged it was hard not to become emotional about the decision, but Hawaiians shouldn't dwell on their feelings now.
"Rather than getting mad, I urge you to get motivated," he said.
"It is time for us to straighten out our backbones and get educated," he said. "We need to go forward."
Aila urged the senate committee to define OHA in autonomous terms separate from the state and continue the tradition of Hawaiians-only voting.
Poli'ahu Kalima-Motas, a 14-year-old Kamehameha Schools student, said the Supreme Court decision may be an opportunity for Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to work together.
"We all have to get together and listen, talk to each other, and learn," she said.
Court rulingBy Richard Borreca
could mean big
changes for OHA
Office of Hawaiian Affairs voters -- one of the newest and fastest rising political groups -- may become just one of many competing interests in the fall OHA elections.
While much of the future of OHA today is in controversy, political leaders say the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Hawaiians-only OHA elections means that all voters in Hawaii will be able to vote in the election The effect could be dramatic.
New figures from Voter Contact Services show nearly 97,000 registered OHA voters out of a registered base of 568,000 voters.
In 1996 there were 87,000 OHA voters.
Yesterday, House Speaker Calvin Say, predicted that the composition of the OHA board will change to reflect the community at large.
"They will have to listen to different group," he said.
He said he could see a group running on a platform of taking 10 percent of the trust fund, now estimated at $350 million, and using it for public school education or dedicating 20 percent for social services.
Senate President Norman Mizuguchi agreed that dramatic changes are likely by widening the voter base.
"It will still come down to name recognition and who has the recognition for the best program," Mizuguchi said.
Programs that would be directed entirely towards native Hawaiians could now have a broader community interest in order to attract wider voter support.
"You are going to have to reach out to a broader community and explain programs that will benefit the entire community," Mizuguchi said.
Another question would be who will finance the campaigns. Say noted that an OHA board position could be an influential one because unlike the state school board, which just sets policy, the OHA board sets policy and can spend money.
With that power comes more people interested in supporting specific candidates, so some OHA board members who depended on small word-of-mouth campaigns may not be able to compete against candidates with wide community support.
Civil disobedienceStar-Bulletin staff
If OHA trustee Mililani Trask follows through on her call for protests at airports and other sites, it would not be the first time Hawaiians have used civil disobedience to make a point about native rights.
On Sept. 4, 1978, 60 people, including 51 native Hawaiians and nine news reporters and cameramen, were arrested during a protest which briefly shut down Hilo Airport.
The Hawaii Army National Guard had been activated by Gov. George Ariyoshi because Hawaiian protesters threatened to close the Big Island airport to dramatize the high percentage of native Hawaiians in the state prison system, the alleged mismanagement of Bishop Estate and the use of Kahoolawe as a military bombing range. The airport was closed for nearly an hour.
The protesters and media, including a Star-Bulletin reporter, were arrested when they went into a restricted area. The protest lasted for more than four hours and included shouting matches between the demonstrators and riot-helmeted National Guard soldiers, outfitted with batons and flak jackets.
Among those arrested were Dr. Emmett Aluli, of Molokai; Peggy Hao Ross, leader of Ohana o Hawaii; Protect Kohoolawe Ohana leader Moanikeala Akaka and Pali Kekaulike Wong, leader of the protest.
Rice vs. Cayetano arguments
Rice vs. Cayetano decision
Office of Hawaiian Affairs