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Editorials
Friday, May 12, 2000

OHA logo


OHA’s denial of funds
for sovereignty plan

Bullet The issue: The trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have rejected a request for a grant to the Native Hawaiian Convention for an educational program on sovereignty.

Bullet Our view: The decision illustrates the deep divisions in the Hawaiian community on the sovereignty issue.

EVIDENCE that the Hawaiian community remains deeply divided and far from consensus on the sovereignty issue comes from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, long known for its bickering board of trustees.

The OHA board -- which is itself under a legal cloud as a result of the Rice vs. Cayetano decision -- has denied a grant of nearly $427,000 to the Native Hawaiian Convention and its supporting organization, Ha Hawaii. The grant would have funded an educational outreach program under which the elected delegates to the convention would have conducted interviews with Hawaiian families to explain models of Hawaiian sovereignty that are now being drafted.

That seems reasonable enough, and OHA, which has plenty of money through its 20 percent of state revenues from ceded land, could certainly afford to approve the grant. Nobody else is offering to educate the Hawaiian community about its sovereignty options.

But the election of convention delegates was boycotted by rival Hawaiian organizations, and these groups turned out to oppose the grant. They argued that OHA had provided enough money for the convention already. Moreover, they maintained that the convention was a state-sponsored effort that could compromise efforts to obtain sovereignty through international organizations.

The irony of objecting to state sponsorship of the convention before OHA, which is itself a state agency that gets its money under state law, seemed lost on the trustees. One of them, Mililani Trask, is a founder of Ka Lahui Hawaii, one of the leading opponents of the convention on the ground of its association with the state. Yet she is willing to sit on the board of OHA.

As for obtaining sovereignty through the United Nations or some other international body, that is a fantasy that can only serve as a diversion from more realistic approaches.

It seems that some of the sovereignty advocates are more interested in attacking their rivals than in pursuing their purported goal. And the OHA trustees aren't helping. Meanwhile the idea of Hawaiian sovereignty remains a vague and distant goal, obscured by the dust raised by its feuding advocates.

Bullet Office of Hawaiian Affairs


University


UH coach is entitled
to express his views

Bullet The issue: The African-American Association of Hawaii has called for the firing of University of Hawaii men's basketball coach Riley Wallace on the basis of his opinion on the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina.

Bullet Our view: Wallace has a constitu-tional right to freedom of speech.

IT was coincidental that the Star-Bulletin carried a report of a talk on threats to freedom of speech on the same day as a story about a demand that Riley Wallace be fired as the coach of the University of Hawaii men's basketball team on the basis of his opinion on the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina.

The second report illustrated perfectly the point of the first. People have a right to express their opinions -- a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. This right is meaningless unless it applies to unpopular opinions. Popular opinions need no protection.

Wallace is being pilloried because he commented on a resolution approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that warned South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol dome or lose all NCAA-sponsored events planned for the state. Wallace disagreed with the NCAA, saying it should stay out of politics.

"I don't say take it (the flag) down or leave it," Wallace said. "But I don't think the NCAA should try to force the hand of the people who live there...They (South Carolinians) should work out their own problems."

In response, the African-American Association of Hawaii called for Wallace's removal as coach "as soon as contractually possible." The association denounced Wallace for "failure to recognize this flag as a symbol of slavery, segregation and hatred of African Americans."

The Japanese American Citizens League called Wallace's statements "ill-advised and unfortunate."

Many people agree that the Confederate flag is a repugnant symbol and should be removed. Others view it as a symbol of the South's gallant fight against superior forces in the Civil War.

Wallace's position is hardly an extreme or an unusual one. His opinion that the people of South Carolina should make the decision on flying the flag or removing it is anything but outrageous -- and even if he did have an outrageous opinion he would be entitled to express it.

Susan Herman, the general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke on "Threats to Dissent in the 21st Century" Wednesday in a forum at the East-West Center.

Herman mentioned the case of a Florida teen-ager who was suspended from school for writing a story about aliens abducting a school administrator. "What I find frightening," Herman said, "is when members of a community believe exceptions need to be made to our guarantee of freedom of speech."

The same might be said about this misguided attempt to punish Riley Wallace for voicing an innocuous opinion. The demand that he be fired is disturbing -- not his opinion.



Ka Leo O Hawaii






Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor




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