View Point

By Rowena Akana

Friday, June 11, 1999

OHA negotiations
with state

IN a May 22 View Point column, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Colette Machado alleges that I offered the state the opportunity to "opt out" of its future obligations to OHA in exchange for the fee title of certain state lands, and the repeal of two crucial OHA-related laws.

Machado called this a "global settlement that would set up OHA as a private 'native' corporation." I call it a flagrant misrepresentation of the truth.

In the textbook bait-and-switch formula, it appears as if Machado is again trying to divert attention away from the facts associated with the ongoing ceded lands revenues negotiations with the state.

Let's revisit the issue in an attempt to restate the facts for OHA beneficiaries and the people of Hawaii.

In reality, the repeal of OHA's implementing legislation (HRS Chapter 10) and Act 304 (the law that gives OHA 20 percent of all ceded land revenues) were not part of the offer. To settle the case, OHA's latest proposal was for the state to pay a total compensation of $304.6 million for:

Bullet Revenue generated from four sources of ceded land income as described in the Heely decision.
Bullet The state's failure to comply with Act 304.
Bullet The state's agreement with the federal government to build a prison on ceded lands on Elliot Street.
Bullet And interest income after the Heely ruling.

Perhaps Machado suffers from selective amnesia, as she prefers to skew the information in her favor in attempt to cast herself in the most favorable light.

Ironically, an article in the June 1999 issue of Hawaii Business magazine is likely the most recent example of Machado's hypocrisy. Titled "OHA At Bat," Alex Salkever writes, "(Kali) Watson believes OHA will eventually set up a separate for-profit subsidiary to handle the moneymaking side of OHA -- something that OHA Trustee Machado says she is currently looking into."

Yet, in her column, Machado was deeply concerned about "who would run the new private corporation."

With the settlement proposal, OHA also agreed to a bar of all claims for a pro rata share of trust revenues arising on or above July 1.

Similar to Section 4 of Act 14, 1995 Special Session Laws of Hawaii, this agreement would not bar the claims of beneficiaries against the federal government or claims of beneficiaries with regard to reparations or future claims arising against the state after July 1. This information was written in the letter.

My letter was an effort to continue channels of communication between OHA and the state, not a final offer. Nor was it an attempt to stonewall the flow of information between beneficiaries, the board and board attorney Sherry Broder.

Any reasonable person would find it obvious that the board of trustees, as a body, would have to approve and agree to any proposal before it could move forward.

Machado does indeed voice valid concerns regarding Hawaiian sovereignty, reparations and independence, the management of the lands, and input from the Hawaiian community. However, let's not put the cart before the horse.

I am confident the appropriate time for dialogue with our beneficiaries will occur, after OHA complies with the Hawaii Supreme Court order to reach a settlement on the Heely case with the state.

Since the recent negotiations have been tenuous at best, and impossible at worst, I feel that the OHA negotiating team has excelled in light of adverse conditions. In the spirit of compromise and reaching a fair agreement, my letter offered what we believed to be an equitable settlement in the best interest of OHA beneficiaries.

MACHADO is doing a disservice to the Hawaiian community by perpetuating half-truths. Perhaps she believes spouting rhetoric is a means of garnering support from the Hawaiian community.

It is regrettable that Machado finds it necessary to be an armchair quarterback rather than working to resolve the issue so vital to the Hawaiian community. Perhaps she should follow her own advice and ask herself: "Is it your intent to work collaboratively with your fellow trustees, or is it your intent to create disharmony and discord among the trustees?"

Rowena Akana is chairwoman of
the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees.

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