Saturday, January 30, 1999

OHA logo

OHA plans

The idea comes in the wake
of the tiny turnout for
Ha Hawaii's election

By Pat Omandam


Saying the timing is right, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs plans to hold a huge native gathering this October to educate all Hawaiians in the hopes they can reach a final consensus on the highly divisive issue of sovereignty.

The event could cost OHA up to $5 million if approved by its board.

The plan is a direct result of this week's announcement by Ha Hawaii that less than 9 percent of Hawaiians cast their ballots in the nonprofit group's election of delegates for a native convention this year, says OHA Chairwoman Rowena Akana.

"That is hardly a mandate from which to base the future of our people," Akana said yesterday.

"The message is clear from our community that a more informative, inclusive process is needed. We must have a much more collective effort that affords a voice and representation of all of Hawaii."

Akana added the event is a prudent and necessary step for trustees and the Hawaiian people they represent.

Nevertheless, Ha Hawaii Executive Director Kaipo Kincaid yesterday said news of OHA's sovereignty gathering, or "puwalu," will not stop efforts by the 85 delegates to convene this year.

Kincaid said she's very disappointed at Akana for choosing to hold this event just as delegates begin discussion on holding a convention.

The delegates will meet within a few weeks to begin pre-convention talks, she said.

As proposed, the OHA gathering will take place in October.

The agency is looking for sites that can hold thousands of people to discuss sovereignty, land, government, education and other socioeconomic elements that would affect an independent nation.

Akana said all Hawaiian groups -- no matter their stand on self-determination -- will be invited.

The public also can attend the gathering, which likely will be between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. for up to 10 days.

Plans call for the puwalu, which will be free of charge, to be broadcast on television for the entire state to see.

Afterward, she said, OHA will carry out whatever mandate is reached.

Akana said the agency has $50,000 in its current education budget that it can immediately use for the puwalu.

But OHA Government Affairs Committee Chairwoman Mililani Trask said she will ask the nine-member board to approve as much as $5 million for the effort.

Trask yesterday said the agenda will include education on sovereignty at the national and international levels.

She plans to invite United Nations delegate Miguel Alfonso Martinez of Cuba as a speaker.

Trask added that organizers of the "Hoomalu Ma Kualoa" Hawaiian summit on March 20-21 at Kualoa Beach Park don't have the money to hold the event.

Instead, she will ask them to join OHA's gathering.

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