Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Native Hawaiian
delegates to
convene at Capitol

By Pat Omandam


The House chamber of the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon once again will echo with rhetoric from elected officials about sovereignty for Hawaii's native people.

Only this time, it won't be state representatives but Hawaiians elected by other Hawaiians who will do the talking.

Ready or not, delegates of the Native Hawaiian Convention this Saturday begin the next step toward self-determination, three years after 73 percent of Hawaiians who voted in the 1996 Native Hawaiian Vote favored an election of delegates to propose a native Hawaiian government.

"This is one of the most important steps for our people to take in the charting of our future," said delegate Ikaika Hussey, chairman of group's media committee.

"I would like to see the convention emerge with a clear plan for our people and our islands," said the Hawaiian studies major at the University of Hawaii.

Seventy-nine delegates are expected to convene the convention with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday at Iolani Palace. The group will be sworn in at the Capitol at noon, with debate to begin in earnest in the House chamber at 1:30 p.m.

The goal over the next week, month or even year is to develop a constitution agreed upon by delegates on a form of native Hawaiian government that must be ratified by all native Hawaiians.

The convention has reserved the House chambers through Aug. 8, according to the sergeant-at-arms office at the Capitol.

But ratification is a lofty goal since only 41 percent of Hawaiians statewide participated in the 1996 vote, while just 8.6 percent cast ballots in an election of delegates this past January by Ha Hawaii, the nonprofit group following up on the 1996 vote conducted by the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council.

"We've got to remember we only represent about 9 percent of Hawaiians at this point," said delegate Lela Hubbard, who views the convention as another exercise in self-determination similar to what the native group Ka Lahui Hawaii has done with its plan for independence.

The convention's mission statement says the delegates shall explore the full ramifications of self-determination and native Hawaiian rights.

"The convention deems its responsibility to inquire, to research and to put forward to the Hawaiian people recommendations of options that arise out of these inquiries at the appropriate times," it states.

Delegates are meeting all this week at the Capitol to choose their permanent officers, set ground rules and to work on other issues concerning the convention, said delegate H.K. Bruss Keppeler.

Keppeler expects it will take more than a single afternoon to reach consensus. In between convention meetings, delegates are expected to hold community workshops to brief the public on issues before them.

Also, some delegates want to attend the weeklong World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education that starts Monday in Hilo, he said.

Hawaiian groups against this sovereignty process, led by the Kupono Coalition, claim the convention is not independent because the state created HSEC and is manipulating the sovereignty process.

Language in the law that created the sovereignty council states nothing arising out of a Hawaiian convention or any ratification vote on proposals from a convention, shall supersede, alter or affect the state Constitution or state government.

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