Civil rights panels are constructed to oppose sovereignty
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission's Hawaii advisory committee has begun hearing testimony on proposed Hawaiian sovereignty.
ADVOCATES of Hawaiian sovereignty understandably are concerned about a revamping of a federal advisory committee
for Hawaii on civil rights. The newly constructed committee, which heard testimony this week, is likely to oppose the Akaka Bill, as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights did last year. Members of Congress should fully understand that the commission now is in lockstep with President Bush, who has indicated his opposition to the bill.
Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, says nine of the 17 members of the Hawaii advisory committee are on record as opposing the Akaka Bill. The state's congressional delegation has protested the committee's composition in a letter to the commission. Prior to its reconstruction, the advisory committee endorsed the Akaka Bill in 2001.
Three years ago, after longtime commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry, who is black, and liberal vice-chairman Cruz Reynoso, a Latino, stepped down, Bush appointed black conservative Republicans Gerald A. Reynolds and Ashley L. Taylor to replace them. The commission changed from a 5-3 liberal majority to the present 6-2 conservative majority.
Reynolds, who attended this week's committee hearing, has been a critic of preferences for minorities and voted against endorsement of the Akaka Bill. In recent years, the commission has moved to reconstruct the state advisory committees to reflect that change of ideology.
When told that the vast majority of Hawaii residents indicated support of the Akaka Bill in a reliable poll two years ago, Reynolds told the Star-Bulletin's editorial board that the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954 may not have reflected public opinion but nevertheless was correct. Reynolds said he believes the Akaka Bill is unconstitutional.
Newly appointed to the Hawaii committee are H. William Burgess, plaintiff's attorney in a lawsuit challenging the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, plaintiff James Kuroiwa Jr. and lawyer Paul Sullivan, who has called the Akaka Bill "morally, politically and socially wrong."
The new chairman of the Hawaii committee is Michael Lilly, state attorney general under former Gov. George Ariyoshi. Lilly has not stated his opinion of the Akaka Bill. Among the allegations against Lilly during his failed Senate confirmation in 1985 was an accusation by the late David Schutter that Lilly was a "racist." Schutter then was a law partner of future Gov. Ben Cayetano, who as a state senator was among those who led the effort to reject Lilly's confirmation.
Lilly denied being a racist but conceded that he should not have written a limerick in 1979 that was interpreted as derogatory toward a native Hawaiian defendant, Kenneth Lono, who was contesting his transfer to a mainland prison. The poem said Lono "got sent back to Hawaii, so now he can eat his fish and poi."
The committee charged with evaluating Hawaiian sovereignty requires a chairman who has learned from past indiscretion.