Friday, June 18, 1999

Governor’s veto on
Hawaiian claims

Bullet The issue: Governor Cayetano vetoed a bill extending the life of a Hawaiian Home Lands claims panel for one year.
Bullet Our view: The Legislature should correct the problems cited by the governor in his veto message.

BY vetoing a bill extending the life of the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust Individual Claims Review panel for one year, Governor Cayetano has angered many Hawaiian Homes claimants. However, his reasons seem valid.

Panel chairman Peter Trask said the veto leaves more than 2,000 claims before the panel in limbo. The only recourse for claimants now is to file lawsuits, he said. Of the 4,327 claims originally filed, 47 percent remain before the panel, 13 percent have been awarded damages and 40 percent were dismissed or closed.

Cayetano, in his veto message, said the panel has "misapplied" what claims should be heard and the formula for damages. He blamed the Legislature for failing to correct the problem.

Enactment of the law extending the panel, the governor said, would prolong the erroneous standards for another year. "This, in turn, will perpetuate the beneficiaries' misunderstanding that the panel's recommended awards are valid," he argued. "This misunderstanding by the beneficiaries cannot be allowed to continue."

If the Legislature wants to revive the claims review process, it should correct the problems cited by the governor.

Chinese embassy

Bullet The issue: China refuses to accept the U.S. explanation for NATO's bombing of the chinese embassy in Belgrade.
Bullet Our view: By sending a top diplomat to Beijing to make the explanation, the United States has done all it reasonably could to convince the Chinese.

THE Clinton administration sent Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering to Beijing to explain the circumstances that resulted in the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. But China responded that the explanation was "unconvincing" and rejected the U.S. position that the attack was a mistake.

That's enough kowtowing to Beijing. We haven't seen any apology for China's theft of nuclear weapons secrets or its gross abuses of human rights.

If Beijing refuses to accept the U.S. explanation, so be it. The United States has done all it reasonably could to make amends for the deaths of three Chinese and damage to the embassy. It shouldn't grovel.

The Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan as saying Beijing still wants the U.S. to give a "satisfactory explanation" of the incident. His remarks came during a meeting with Pickering, Xinhua said.

The "satisfactory explanation" Beijing wants would be nothing less than a confession that the bombing was deliberate, which it certainly wasn't.

Pickering reportedly told Tang that the technique used for locating the air strike's intended target was flawed, and cited shortcomings in U.S. intelligence and military targeting databases. He added that systems to catch target errors also failed -- regrettable, to be sure, when the location of the embassy could have been easily ascertained, but hardly a deliberate decision to attack China.

Pickering left the Chinese capital after releasing a statement saying the U.S. "looks forward to further productive discussions with China in the mutual interest of the two countries."

That is to be hoped for, but it won't happen if the Chinese leadership continues to milk this monumental blunder for its propaganda value.

Strife in Solomons

Bullet The issue: A state of emergency has been declared on Guadalcanal to deal with ethnic unrest.
Bullet Our view: The government must take swift action to prevent the conflict from spreading.

IT'S not on the horrific scale of a Kosovo, but violence has also become a reality in the Southwest Pacific. Islanders on Bougainville have been fighting for independence from Papua New Guinea.

In New Caledonia, there has been fighting between the Melanesians seeking independence and French settlers.

In Fiji, tensions between Melanesians and Indian immigrants, which led to a coup 10 years ago and restrictions on Indian political representation, are still a concern.

Now a state of emergency has been declared on Guadalcanal in the Solomons to deal with ethnic violence that has left three dead and dozens of houses burned. Thousands of people have fled to the capital, Honiara.

On Saturday, 10 Guadalcanal islanders attacked the workers' quarters at a palm oil plantation, capping 10 months of turbulence. The group, armed with guns, spears, knives and axes, killed three men and forced the evacuation of workers and their families to a school in Honiara.

Guadalcanal islanders are campaigning to have immigrants from other islands in the Solomons sent home. They also seek compensation for social problems such as rising crime, which they say is a result of the national capital being established on Guadalcanal.

Police Commissioner Frank Short said he was confident police could contain the unrest, terming the violence sporadic and localized. "I am optimistic it will not spread. We are looking at reconciliation, which is the Melanesian way," Short said.

Reconciliation would be ideal, but the government must act decisively to make it clear that further violence will not be tolerated.

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