Ceded lands deal guards future claims
Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Rowena Akana's praise for the "1999 Cayetano settlement" of the ceded lands question omits crucial facts (Letters, Star-Bulletin, Feb.4).
In then-Gov. Ben Cayetano's 1999 offer, OHA would have dismissed all lawsuits against the state, including OHA v. Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, the case just decided last week by the Hawaii state Supreme Court in favor of native Hawaiians.
In her letter, Akana writes that Cayetano's 1999 offer was "a better deal than the proposal now before the Legislature." The fact is Akana, who was then OHA chairwoman, rejected the Cayetano offer. She transmitted her own counter-offer to Cayetano. Akana fails to acknowledge that her counter-offer received no timely response from Cayetano. No mutual agreement between Akana and Cayetano was achieved. No settlement document between OHA and the state in 1999 was signed.
A partial settlement was concluded successfully in 1993 between OHA and the state (Waihee administration) related to the "undisputed revenues due to OHA" from the income and proceeds of the public land trust. That negotiation and mediation took more than 30 months to complete.
On Jan. 18, OHA and the state of Hawaii announced a settlement aimed at resolving "disputed revenues due to OHA" from income and proceeds of the public land trust. This negotiation and mediation took four years to complete.
This 2008 agreement in the amount of $200 million is to be implemented by the transfer of land and cash to OHA. The land parcels include commercial and industrial properties on Oahu and the Big Island totaling 209 acres. The state also will pay OHA just over $13 million in cash, and agrees to continue paying OHA a minimum of $15.1 million annually.
Upon approval of this 2008 settlement by the Legislature, the payment to OHA for its share of the "disputed" revenues due from the public land trust will be settled for the period from 1978 to 2008.
This 2008 settlement brings to closure the issue of "undisputed and disputed" revenues, payments of income and proceeds due to OHA since OHA's creation in 1978.
No overthrow claims to ownership of ceded lands are being resolved under this 2008 settlement agreement.
The value of this 2008 settlement is underscored by the state Supreme Court's Jan. 31 decision (OHA v. HCDCH). The high court ruled that Hawaiians have unresolved claims to ownership of kingdom lands that were "ceded" to the state of Hawaii at statehood. As long as those claims remain unresolved, the lands cannot be sold to third parties.
Under the "Cayetano settlement" in 1999, OHA, on behalf of its Hawaiian beneficiaries, would have been required to relinquish forever all claims to the 1.4 million acres of state-controlled "ceded lands."
It is fortunate for all Hawaiians that five OHA trustees stood firm in rejecting Cayetano's 1999 deal. These five were certainly not "short-sighted" as charged by Akana.
The settlement now before the Legislature is fair, reasonable and long overdue, and, most important, protects the rights of the Hawaiian people to our ceded lands.
S. Haunani Apoliona, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees chairwoman; Walter M. Heen, BOT vice-chairman; Oswald K. Stender, Assets and Resource Management Committee chairman; Colette P. Machado, Beneficiary and Advocacy Empowerment Committee chairwoman; trustee Boyd P. Mossman; trustee Robert Lindsey; trustee Donald B. Cataluna; and trustee John D. Waihee IV.