View Point

Saturday, September 20, 1997

Makua was no victory
for Hawaiians

By Rowena Akana

Last month, the U.S. Marines had planned an amphibious landing at Makua Beach. The five-day exercise would begin with an amphibious assault on the beach, followed by live-fire training in the valley.

The community was outraged, and rightly so. The Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, Hui Malama O Makua, Pastor Kaleo Patterson (organizer of the demonstrations leading up to the day of the scheduled landing) and the Hawaii Ecumenical Coalition rose to protest the intrusion of the military onto sacred land at Makua.

The protest caused Governor Cayetano to meet with Adm. Joseph Prueher (Commander-In-Chief, Pacific). A meeting with representatives of the community ensued.

The military changed its plans and landed at Bellows instead.

While Frenchy DeSoto proclaimed this as a major victory, this was anything but a victory. All it did was postpone the inevitable.

The military has not ruled out future training activities in the area which is held sacred by Hawaiians. Using live ammunition, and firing into a beautiful sacred valley in the middle of thriving communities, is insane.

Would the military try this in other states for 65 years? Let's see if other communities in America would allow this to happen.

The people of Hawaii must become more involved in what our state officials are doing on our behalf.

One could argue all day about being ready for war, but let's be realistic. If there is a third world war, no one would be fighting in hand-to-hand combat. The fight would be a nuclear one, and none of us would have to worry about Makua Valley or anywhere else.

In 1964, the state leased Makua to the Army for $1 for 65 years, until the year 2029. The lease allows the military to use the beach for maneuvers but, in doing so, it infringes on the community's public access rights.

During last year's legislative session, the governor and Legislature decried the poor condition of state finances, and how departments and programs would have to tighten to run more efficiently with less money.

But while the state is selling the sob story of "no money," it at the same time is giving away prime lands and our fair share of revenues: 20 percent for OHA beneficiaries; 80 percent for general public beneficiaries.

The debacle allows potentially millions of state dollars to be lost.

The protest at Makua raises questions, not only about access, but about state accountability in meeting its responsibilities to the public trust:

Shouldn't there be a review of state land leases? Because of the state's rationale for low lease rents, an impartial third party should do the review.

How much of our valuable ceded lands are we not receiving proper compensation for? When potential revenue is allowed to slip away, we get short-changed in education, human services, reduced health care and in other benefits.

Why weren't access requirements considered in the lease of Makua? The state must let the military know that it cannot lease valuable land for bombing, live ammunition firing and training. Although the governor met with Admiral Prueher to change the landing site, why wasn't this resolved when the lease was given in 1964? The target of protest should be the administration and not necessarily the military, because the state can revoke the lease at anytime.

The state doesn't own lands; it is the trustee for these lands. Shouldn't it be more accountable for its management of these lands?

It's time the public demand that the state take its responsibilities seriously as trustee of a public trust. Lands have been mismanaged for too long!

Should we consider the hiring of a private counsel to investigate the state for its mismanagement?

Rowena M.N. Akana is a trustee with the
Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The opinions in View Point columns
are the authors' and are not necessarily shared by the Star-Bulletin.

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