Friday, January 15, 1999

Important Hawaiian
sovereignty elections

THE turnout Sunday for the election of delegates to a convention on Hawaiian sovereignty should be a valuable indicator of the degree of interest of the Hawaiian community in the issue. Of approximately 100,000 people on the rolls of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which determines eligibility, only about half are expected to vote. A larger turnout would be a good indication of strong interest.

Opponents of the process, arguing that it is tainted by state sponsorship, have urged a boycott. They support instead a conference being scheduled for later this year that would not require an election of delegates and thus be more vulnerable to control by a minority. Certainly it is difficult to believe it would be more representative of community sentiment. An impassioned defense of the elections by Charles Rose, a candidate and past president of the sponsoring group, appears on the opposite page.

There are 157 candidates vying for 85 district seats in the elections Sunday, including such prominent figures as former Bishop Estate trustee Myron Thompson, former Big Island Mayor Dante Carpenter and Hawaiian Homestead Associations administrator Kamaki Kanahele. The candidates have been holding a series of forums this week to share their goals for a restored Hawaiian nation with the community.

The convention was approved in a 1996 plebiscite conducted by the now-defunct Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council with state funding. Its successor organization, Ha Hawaii, has funds for the election of delegates but needs $2 million to hold the convention. Ha Hawaii says the ballots will be tabulated on Jan. 27.

What form Hawaiian sovereignty should take is by no means clear at this point, but the election and the convention to follow should clarify the views of the Hawaiian community. There has been plenty of rhetoric on the subject in recent years, but no one knows how much support a particular proposal has. Hawaiians who are concerned about the question should participate in this election and enable the process to move forward.

Sen. Daniel Akaka urged Hawaiians to put aside their differences and cooperate to achieve a workable version of sovereignty. Participation in the delegate election would be consistent with the senator's request.


Japanese coalition

PROSPECTS for more effective action to pull Japan out of recession have improved with agreement on a coalition of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party with the opposition Liberal Party. Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi made it plain that was the purpose of the deal. "We formed a coalition government in order to overcome the current national (economic) crisis," Obuchi said. "We will cooperate to take resolute steps together."

As part of the coalition agreement, Obuchi has streamlined the cabinet and reduced the number of ministers to 18 from 20. While keeping key figures such as Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa on his team, Obuchi made minor changes in the cabinet lineup. He named Takeshi Noda, secretary general of the opposition Liberal Party, as home affairs minister.

However, the key opposition figure in the deal is Liberal leader Ichiro Ozawa, who was instrumental in the 1993 formation of the first non-LDP government in nearly 40 years. Ozawa was a member of the LDP until 1994, when he bolted to the opposition and became a leader in the efforts to reform Japan's political system.

Lacking a majority in the upper house of the Diet, the LDP needs the coalition to assure swift passage of its economic stimulus plan and budget in the next session of parliament, starting Jan. 19. The government unveiled a massive stimulus package in November, pouring money into public works projects, corporate and income tax cuts and mortgage loan rebates. It forecasts the economy will grow 0.5 percent in the fiscal year starting April 1, but few economists expect that to happen.

Although the parties have formed a coalition, Ozawa said he isn't happy with the government's economic plans but predicted that the LDP will eventually be forced to introduce the Liberals' proposals to stimulate the economy. Ozawa has advocated a suspension of the national sales tax and larger income tax cuts to increase consumer spending.

Ozawa is a highly controversial figure, but his emphasis on reform makes the coalition worth watching. If he can get the LDP to accept some of his ideas for reform, Japan's creaky political structure and ailing economy may benefit.


Fireworks restrictions

SENTIMENT is building in the county councils for tougher restrictions on fireworks, if not a total ban as advocated by Governor Cayetano. The Honolulu City Council's policy committee passed a resolution urging the Legislature to either impose a ban or return jurisdiction over the issue to the counties. The state superseded county authority in 1994 with a law that has proved glaringly ineffective.

On Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, officials support the return of jurisdiction to the county level. Maui had a county-wide ban on fireworks from 1956 until the state intervened in 1994, and might reinstitute it if given an opportunity. Sentiment on Kauai and the Big Island seems to favor stronger restrictions on fireworks but not an outright ban.

Certainly the problem is worse on Oahu, with its much higher population density, than on the neighbor islands and the need for relief the most urgent here. But state legislators seem to be dragging their feet, fearing an adverse reaction from fireworks devotees. What is needed to get action is for fireworks opponents to show up in force at the Legislature and, so to speak, hold the lawmakers' feet to the fire.

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