Monday, June 2, 2003


Hosting puppeteers
does not endorse
communist regime


Groups protest the East-West Center's sponsorship of performers from Vietnam.

Organizations opposed to the government in Vietnam misdirect their criticism by focusing on cultural performances sponsored by the East-West Center. In seeking to censor the artistic expression of a puppetry troupe and musicians, these groups foster the same kind of oppression they protest.

The East-West Center's mission to strengthen understanding and relations between Asian-Pacific countries and the United States encompasses cultural exchange through various programs, including performance and traditional arts. Bringing these shows and displays to Hawaii for public enjoyment and education cannot be construed as support for a government's policies or actions.

A coalition of 13 Vietnamese groups asked the center to stop a concert and the puppet shows, saying that putting them on stage means the center backs a regime that violates human rights -- a ludicrous claim.

The center is pushing no political agenda, but merely offering an opportunity to see a 1,000-year-old form of puppetry on water that is unique to Vietnam. The protesting group contends that the Vietnam government uses cultural performances as propaganda, but the independent troupe has no ties to the government. In fact, the delay of the troupe's travel clearances to the United States -- which has caused postponement for shows here -- is because it is not government-sponsored, according to center officials.

The East-West Center has brought many performers and art exhibitions from Myanmar, China, Japan and Indonesia, among other countries. None of those programs endorsed the political authority of their governments and neither does the current celebration of Vietnamese puppetry.

The public should ignore the coalition's protests and calls to boycott the performances. The groups would do better to create opportunities for rationale discussion of their grievances and views rather than attempt to bar a legitimate display of cultural exchange.


Like it or not, tourism
is only game in town


A survey echoes residents' ambivalence about the visitor industry.

A SURVEY of 1,643 residents that infers that the public believes tourism is good for Hawaii is not surprising since the state's economic fortunes depend heavily on the industry. That it reflects residents' continuing love-hate relationship with tourism also can be expected because of the industry's potential to bring prosperity as well as disadvantages to the islands.

The survey, conducted for the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, displays disparate views. For example, while 58 percent of those questioned say more industry jobs are needed, 58 percent also say they don't want more hotels built.

These contradictory responses mirror the public's ambivalence about an industry that reaches broadly beyond obvious tourism enterprises like hotels, restaurants and other visitor attractions. However, people surveyed seem well aware that absent anything else, tourism is Hawaii's mainstay and will remain so indefinitely.

Respondents were asked if they agree or disagree with this statement: "Unless we are sure some other major industry will work here, we must support more tourism growth." About 40 percent predictably agreed. Only 7 percent agreed that Hawaii should not support any more tourism even if that means the economy will stagnant or get worse since no one wants Hawaii's economy to falter. But people also recognize that unchecked growth isn't desirable either with 48 percent saying that while short-term expansion is acceptable, limits in the long run may be necessary even if no other larger industries are developed.

Residents seem to want change, too, with about 85 percent saying their islands depend too much on tourism. The observation carries more weight since war and terrorism have cut visitor numbers and revenues and should prod state officials to pursue economic diversification more aggressively.

The survey was done to aid HTA's strategic planning and DBEDT's sustainable tourism effort. Although results were characterized by one hotel executive as "public supports tourism," the agency is wise to not take them as a blanket endorsement for the industry, but as a good instrument that points to the types of businesses and areas where respondents view tourism development as more acceptable. Still, individuals who respond positively to a poll may have different reactions if a water park is proposed for their neighborhood.



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