Rewritten Akaka Bill stirs same objections
Isle backers again deny that it creates a race-based state
The Bush administration continues to oppose the Akaka Bill, even though the legislation as currently written addresses many of the concerns raised over the previous version, a U.S. Department of Justice representative testified before a key Senate committee yesterday.
In written testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Gregory Katsas said the current bill continues to promote the creation of a race-based government that could establish its own citizenship criteria, grant separate civil rights protections for its citizens and even secede from the United States.
"By dividing government power along racial and ancestral lines, S. 310 (the bill) would represent a significant step backwards in American history and would create far greater problems than those it might purport to solve," Katsas said.
Testifying in favor of the bill were Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, state Attorney General Mark Bennett, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director Micah Kane and Honolulu attorney William Meheula.
Bennett said the recognition being sought for native Hawaiians is not based on race or ancestry. "Recognition afforded aboriginal groups is based upon a political recognition rather than a racial recognition," he said.
The bill's author, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, questioned the Hawaii contingent in response to objections.
Akaka asked Bennett whether the bill would affect personal property, social services or citizenship rights.
"Unless and until there are negotiations between the three governments (native Hawaiian, state and federal), the status quo is completely maintained," Bennett said.
For the same reason, Hawaii residents would not be subject to different sets of laws, and native Hawaiians would not be able to bring legal action against private landowners.
Akaka asked Meheula whether people support the bill so native Hawaiians can declare their independence from the United States.
"No, Sen. Akaka. There is a small minority that -- a loud, small minority -- that sometimes voices independence. But they do not support the bill," Meheula said.
The committee has yet to vote on the bill.