Native HawaiianBy Pat Omandam
delegates sought for
Rose Marie Duey of Iao Valley was among those two years ago who asked, "What's next?" after 73 percent of Hawaiians who cast their ballots in the Native Hawaiian Vote that year said they wanted to elect delegates to discuss sovereignty at a constitutional convention.
Today, as the Maui coordinator for the nonprofit group continuing that process, Duey feels the answer to that question is right around the corner.
"I think it's important that we take the next step and not leave the people who participated in that vote up in the air," she said.
"I myself participated in that vote, and I've been looking forward to taking that next step, and this is our opportunity to do that."
Those of Hawaiian ancestry have until Tuesday to file nomination papers to be a delegate at next year's Native Hawaiian Convention, or to register to vote for delegates in an election scheduled for Jan. 17.
Eighty-five seats representing Hawaiians here and abroad will be up for grabs by candidates who want a first-hand say in the reconstitution of the Hawaiian government, said Kaipo Kincaid, executive director of Ha Hawaii.
Kincaid said the convention -- where delegates will discuss, propose and recommend a native Hawaiian government to Hawaiians for ratification -- will cost between $1.5 million to $2 million, with private grants shouldering the costs.
She said the question delegates will focus on is whether or not Hawaii should be a sovereign nation.
"If that answer is affirmative by the delegates, then constructing the underpinnings for the nation is what they will be doing," she said. "And there could be no greater achievement than to be able to participate in that process."
Kincaid said the convention will be held next year, but the final decision rests entirely on the delegates -- not Ha Hawaii. The group is the successor to the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council, which disbanded in December 1996 after working three years to put on the Native Hawaiian Vote.
Of the 81,507 ballots mailed to registered Hawaiians in that vote, 30,783 were returned. Of the ballots cast, 22,294 -- or 73 percent -- favored a plan to elect delegates to a convention.
Critics of the group, however, complain Ha Hawaii, like its predecessor, is a state agency that cannot legally restore the Hawaiian kingdom. They warn the Hawaiian convention will not reflect the sentiment of the entire Hawaiian community, and that it may jeopardize chances of international recognition of a Hawaiian nation.
But Ha Hawaii Secretary Raymond Pua insists the group is not a state agency and has no agenda for sovereignty. All it wants is for Hawaiians everywhere to decide on self-determination, he said.
Proponents also contend a convention will give them a unified voice that could represent Hawaiians in a variety of ways, such as at the United Nations arguing for a UN-controlled plebiscite. More than a dozen Hawaiian groups support the convention, including the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs and the state Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs a few years ago funded half of HSEC's Native Hawaiian Vote but is still reviewing grant requests from Ha Hawaii.
Pua said everyone who was registered to vote in the OHA election last week -- more than 100,000 people -- is automatically eligible to vote in January. The 85 delegates will represent about 3,000 Hawaiians each, based on the 1990 U.S. Census, he said.
Interest is picking up, said Molokai coordinator Bert Harris, who had to scramble to supply nomination papers and registration forms to Friendly Isle residents.
To be a delegate to the Native Hawaiian Convention, a candidate must:
Be 18 years old by Jan. 17
Be of Hawaiian ancestry
Reside in the district they wish to represent
Complete application form
Submit signed list of 15 registered voters
Pay a $25 fee
Apply by Nov. 17
Call Ha Hawaii at 597-1889 for more information.