Wednesday, August 27, 1997

Bishop Estate probe
is making progress

IT may be months before the attorney general's investigation of the Bishop Estate reaches any conclusions. Yet those of us who believe that a thorough investigation of the trustees' practices is sorely needed have reason to be encouraged by early developments.

Kamehameha Schools Logo Attorney General Margery Bronster has taken seriously Governor Cayetano's instructions to determine whether a full investigation is warranted. After briefing the governor, she said she has decided that there is "a valid public purpose to pursue the investigation." That may seem self-evident, but it is nevertheless essential that such a finding be made to justify further efforts.

Bronster's staff has been sorting through a list of allegations against the trustees and deciding which ones they will pursue. Cayetano has approved hiring additional staff for the investigation. The governor is reviewing a draft report on the preliminary investigation.

A sign of the seriousness with which this investigation is being undertaken is Bronster's statement -- supported by Cayetano -- that she won't hesitate to use her subpoena power to obtain information even if it is protected by confidentiality agreements between the Bishop Estate and its employees. These agreements have been used by the trustees to suppress criticism from the faculty and the estate staff. Bronster urges anyone with specific information relevant to the investigation to come forward.

All this began with the Aug. 9 publication by the Star-Bulletin of "Broken Trust," an article critical of the Bishop Estate trustees signed by five prominent citizens, four of them Hawaiian. After reading the article, Cayetano decided to have the attorney general look into the allegations. So far so good.

Bishop Estate Archive

Diplomats' defection

ANOTHER crack has opened in the wall of secrecy surrounding North Korea. Jang Seung-il, the Communist regime's ambassador to Egypt, and his brother, Jang Seung-ho, a diplomat in Paris, have defected and been granted asylum in the United States. Jang is the first North Korean ambassador ever to defect. He is described as a key figure in North Korea's Middle East diplomacy and reportedly has information on sales of ballistic missiles and other weapons to Syria, Iran and Libya.

The loss of a high-ranking diplomat must have been a blow to confidence in Pyongyang. But no one can be sure whether the reaction will be to soften the regime's negotiating terms or to retreat into intransigence. North Korea may be approaching a crisis point that could lead to collapse or an irrational decision to attack the South. This is a time for close attention to Korean developments by the Clinton administration and cool judgment in responding to them.

Tobacco settlements

LARGE settlements between states and the tobacco industry have given momentum to efforts to strengthen the national settlement after Congress recovenes next week. The proposed agreement, as revealed initially, would have made it difficult for the Food and Drug Administration to strictly control nicotine content in tobacco products. Congress and President Clinton can be confident that the industry ultimately will accept stronger controls to avoid further litigation.

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