Wednesday, September 29, 1999

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OHA leader
steadfast amid
calls to resign

By Pat Omandam


There will be no leadership changes at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs triggered by the arrest of a 71-year-old Hawaiian woman earlier this month who refused to leave OHA offices in Kakaako.

But that didn't stop people from asking the OHA board yesterday to remove Chairwoman Rowena Akana from power. Hawaiian activist Richard P. Kinney asked Akana to resign as chairwoman and called on the board to reorganize its leadership if she did not comply.

"An apology is not enough," Kinney said. "Our only one recourse is (her) resignation."

Akana, before convening the first board meeting since the Sept. 9 arrest of Johanna Lawrence, publicly apologized to Lawrence for any role she played in her arrest on criminal trespassing charges.

At the time, Akana asked state deputy sheriffs to escort Lawrence out of the building after Lawrence disrupted a board meeting. She was arrested shortly after the meeting was adjourned. The charges against her were later dismissed.

Akana said the incident was truly unfortunate because she sees her leadership role as bringing all Hawaiian groups together under one nation. Hawaiians who elected the nine trustees expect they will work together professionally and that is what Akana said she has tried to do since becoming chairwoman last November.

"To those of you .... who have come to ask that leadership changes be made, let me say that I have no intention of resigning my chairmanship and that I will continue to follow my convictions and to stand tall against any adversity, and am prepared to move forward on your behalf to meet the challenges that lay ahead," Akana said.

Akana is OHA's third chairperson in the three years, succeeding trustees A. Frenchy DeSoto and Clayton Hee.

Yesterday's board meeting was held at the state Capitol auditorium to accommodate a large crowd that pushed for board approval of a native Hawaiian Health Care plan, as well as on a resolution to seek funding from the Administration for Native Americans for a planned OHA puwalu, or gathering, next spring.

The health care plan failed by a 4-4 board vote. Trustees decided a resolution was not needed to seek funding for the puwalu.

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