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Another Perspective
H. William Burgess and
Sandra Puanani Burgess

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Opposition to the Akaka
bill is overwhelming


Friday, April 1, 2005


» The person in a photo that ran with a column in Sunday's Insight section was incorrectly identified as Sandra Puanani Burgess. The correct photo of Burgess is at right.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

The Big Question" online survey in the Star-Bulletin last week asked readers the following question:

"The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has approved the Akaka bill for a vote by the full Senate. Would you like to see the Akaka bill become law?"

H. William Burgess is the attorney for the multi-ethnic group of 14 Hawaii residents challenging the validity of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in Arakaki vs. Lingle now pending in the 9th Circuit. His wife, Sandra Puanani Burgess is one of the plaintiffs and is of half-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian and quarter-Filipino ancestry.

Editor's note: The Star-Bulletin's weekly "Big Question" feature is not a scientific poll, nor is it advertised as one. While the responses might be indicative of some of our readers' thoughts, they should not be used to determine the general public's opinion.

The final tally was 436 "Yes" and 1,301 "No." Fourteen votes apparently were not counted. That means 25 percent of the votes cast and counted said "Yes" and 75 percent said "No," they would not like to see the Akaka bill become law.

This is opposite the figures used in a Star-Bulletin editorial a week earlier (March 11), reporting "overwhelming support," "86 percent of Hawaiians and 78 percent of non-Hawaiians favor the Akaka bill," citing a poll taken by Ward Research for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 2003.

OHA claimed the 2003 poll was conducted by an independent research firm. The actual report, pried out of OHA under the Hawaii's Uniform Information Practices Act, shows it was not independent at all, but "pre-campaign research" commissioned by OHA to help it "plan to launch a communications campaign in support of Hawaiian nationhood" and the Akaka bill. All questions were designed in consultation with OHA. But, even with the deceptive "explanation" of the bill, the 2003 Ward Research report concludes, "In the non-Hawaiian population, however, no consensus exists relative to Hawaiian-only programs, entitlements and a future Hawaiian government. Clearly, non-Hawaiians are not prepared to accept the creation of a Hawaiian nation in the near future."

This conclusion was never disclosed by OHA. OHA's shibai of broad public support is often cited as the prevailing "view" of the people of Hawaii. It was mentioned March 1 by Gov. Linda Lingle in her testimony before Congress and by Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona in opinion pieces. Indeed, that assumption of broad public support for the bill underlies the position of our congressional delegation, the local political establishment and seems to have been accepted by the Star-Bulletin and media generally.

Now, as indicated by the Star-Bulletin's latest poll and by the actual conclusion of the July 2003 survey, the overwhelming majority of Hawaii's citizens are clearly not prepared to accept the creation of a new Hawaiian government.

The last time citizens of Hawaii were asked what government they wanted was in the 1959 statehood plebiscite. More than 94 percent voted "Yes" for statehood. But the Akaka bill proposes sweeping changes to that government, allowing a new, separate Hawaiian government, not subject to Hawaii's laws, to be carved out without the consent of Hawaii's citizens.

American citizenship is defined by common ideals and aspirations of equality rather than by blood or ancestry. The grandeur of the United States has been a history of escape from ugly racial, ethnic or class distinctions. The Akaka bill would turn us back to that dark side. It would divide forever not only the people of Hawaii but the people of the United States, on grounds the Supreme Court has termed odious to a free people.

Before taking such a radical step, the voice of the people of Hawaii must be heard. The Akaka bill should be amended to first require a plebiscite asking Hawaii's citizens whether they want a new, separate Hawaiian government carved out of the state of Hawaii. Unless a plebiscite is required, the bill would bypass the bedrock principle on which the United States is based: A government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed.

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