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Akaka Bill foes want hearing


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Opponents of federal recognition for native Hawaiians are urging Hawaii's congressional delegation to hold hearings in Hawaii on the latest version of the Akaka Bill, which is being discussed in Congress this week.

“;The only hearing on this bill in Hawaii was 10 years ago on Oahu,”; said Ehu Cardwell, a spokesman for the Koani Foundation, a sovereignty group that opposes the legislation.

“;Since then there have been no hearings—not one—in Hawaii. There have been so many iterations of it we don't know what's in this bill,”; he added. “;We want the opportunity to give him feedback.”;

The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, better known as the Akaka Bill, is scheduled for a markup tomorrow in the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The foundation organized a rally at the state Capitol yesterday to protest what it said was a potential “;sneak attack”; by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Opponents alleged that Inouye would try to insert the legislation into a separate defense appropriations bill, or some other piece of legislation, coming up for votes this week in Congress—denying a proper public discussion of the proposal.

Inouye, in a statement released by his office, said he had no intention of attaching the Akaka Bill onto other legislation, calling the notion “;nonsensical.”;

“;I don't know where this nonsensical suggestion originated,”; Inouye said. “;The Akaka Bill for the past many years has been considered under what we call the regular order. It has had hours upon hours of hearings, many, many revisions and amendments and has gone through the scrutiny of three administrations.

“;We have had hearings in Washington and in Hawaii. It is not a measure that has been shepherded in the dark of the night. It has been fully transparent.”;

The Akaka Bill would allow for the formation of a governing body for native Hawaiians, similar to that of American Indians, to negotiate with state and federal governments over land and other resources.

Protest organizers said they still are hopeful to have the bill vetted further.

“;We thank Sen. Inouye for his statement and accept his word the Akaka Bill will not be attached to any other legislation,”; said Leon Siu, one of the protest organizers. “;Maybe now the senator will actually hold open congressional hearings on the bill in Hawaii in 2010 and find out what people really think about this legislation.

“;I can tell you this: It will be an eye-opener.”;