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Friday, May 19, 2000

Ex-trustees should
repay Kamehameha

Bullet The issue: A master's report in state court recommends that former majority trustees of the Bishop Estate be required to compensate the estate for inappropriate expenditures on a campaign targeted at their critics.
Bullet Our view: The former trustees should be ordered to repay the school for expenditures aimed at protecting their lucrative positions on the board.

FORMER Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate trustees went to astonishing lengths in their attempt to silence critics before they resigned from their positions under pressure. While the current interim trustees focus on repairing the damage done by their predecessors and creating a new base for the estate's future, the past transgressions should not be ignored. online audio
Interim trustees
meet Star-Bulletin
editorial board

Hundreds of thousands of estate dollars were spent by the former trustees in their unsuccessful attempts to retain their $1-million-a-year positions. The money should be repaid.

A 70-page report submitted in state Circuit Court by attorney Robert Richards, a court-appointed special master, chronicles what he describes as the three former majority trustees' "destroy the opposition" campaign against judges, law enforcement agencies, the Star-Bulletin and the trust's own beneficiaries. Former trustees Henry Peters, Richard "Dickie" Wong and Lokelani Lindsey wasted thousands of dollars through their attempts to silence their critics.

The trio tried to muzzle U.S. District Judge Samuel P. King and disqualify Circuit Judge Kevin Chang from acting as the estate's probate judge, according to Richards. King was among the five co-authors of the "Broken Trust" essay published by the Star-Bulletin in August 1997.

The trustees went so far as to assign the law firm of Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright three weeks after the essay appeared to research whether King had breached limits on federal judges' freedom to comment on social issues. Of course, there are no such limits on judges' First Amendment rights.

The three trustees even assigned the Cades firm to review photographs of Kamehameha Schools alumni and parents who marched on the estate's headquarters in May 1997 in protest of the trustees' mismanagement of the schools. It was an obvious attempt to intimidate critics.

Many of the "destroy the opposition" campaign dollars appear to have gone to the law firm of McCorriston Miho Miller Mukai. The trustees paid the McCorriston firm $1.4 million in 1998-99 to conduct research into a possible racketeering suit against the state attorney general's office and a separate suit against this newspaper and Star-Bulletin reporter Rick Daysog, among other things.

Richards' report recommends that the former board members be required to compensate the estate, now renamed simply Kamehameha Schools, for the $5 million in legal work assigned to outside lawyers. The three former majority trustees certainly should be held responsible for the inappropriate expenditure of funds that should have been devoted to the Hawaiian children who are the estate's beneficiaries.

Bishop Estate archive

Estrada’s problems

Bullet The issue: The Philippine government has been unable to end a standoff with Muslim rebels who are holding foreign hostages.
Bullet Our view: The crisis further damages confidence in President Joseph Estrada's leadership.

THE hostage standoff in the Southern Philippines and the Manila government's failure to resolve it quickly reflect adversely on President Joseph Estrada's leadership. Compounding the embarrassment is the identification of one or more Filipinos as suspected originators of the "Love Bug" computer virus that has affected computers worldwide.

Estrada, a former leading man in Filipino movies, was elected in a landslide two years ago but it is his prestige and popularity that have been sliding since.

Estrada's administration has been bedeviled by corruption and cronyism, undermining efforts to reduce economic controls. The economy has exhibited little growth while neighboring countries rebounded strongly from the 1997 financial crisis.

Estrada was forced to withdraw a proposal to hold a constitutional convention with the avowed purpose of ending restrictions on foreigners' business activities. Opponents charged that his real purpose was to remove the one-term constitutional limit on the presidency so he could run again.

Reports that Estrada attempted to stop an investigation of a crony who was suspected of stock manipulation further damaged confidence.

A flareup of fighting in the Muslim rebellion in the South has served to depress the value of the peso and heighten doubts about the government's competence. To top off his problems, Estrada's inability to bring a quick end to the hostage standoff involving victims from six foreign countries has become an international humiliation.

The Muslim rebellion can hardly be blamed on the current administration. It is the latest outburst of a struggle that goes back to the 16th-century Spanish conquest. Successive Spanish, American and Filipino administrations in Manila failed to achieve more than an uneasy truce.

Tensions grew when Christian settlers emigrated to Muslim areas of Mindanao with government encouragement and competed for land. Fighting flared up during the 1980s in the administration of Ferdinand Marcos.

Estrada's predecessor, Fidel Ramos, negotiated a peace agreement with the dominant Muslim group but another group has continued the rebellion. Still another Muslim group is holding the foreign hostages.

In the midst of the crisis, Estrada flew to China Tuesday for a visit he refused to cancel, evidently trying to show that there was no need to interrupt business as usual. Unfortunately, business as usual for this government is nothing to cheer about.

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