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Monday, September 11, 2000

Resignations of OHA
trustees too late

Bullet The issue: All nine trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have resigned.
Bullet Our view: The trustees should have resigned after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rice vs. Cayetano.

THE resignations of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees should have come months earlier, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the Hawaiian-only voting restriction for OHA elections. The resignations, though belated and made only to forestall removal from office, are still welcome.

The voters of Hawaii, without racial restriction, will choose the new OHA board in the November elections. Governor Cayetano will appoint replacements to serve in the interim.

Unfortunately, the period since the Supreme Court's decision in Rice vs. Cayetano has been marked by demagogic posturing by the trustees, unfairly impugning the motives of the governor. This has poisoned the atmosphere and strained relations between Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.

The trustees have conveniently forgotten that it was the Cayetano administration that defended the Hawaiians-only voting restriction against the suit brought by Harold "Freddy" Rice. The Supreme Court ruled in Rice's favor.

That decision, whatever its merits, cannot be blamed on the governor. However, as the chief executive of the state of Hawaii, Cayetano must uphold the law and the Constitution -- and the U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the meaning of the law.

It was the governor's view -- the correct view, we believe -- that the Rice decision invalidated the OHA trustees' elections and they had to be removed. They should have resigned immediately but chose to resist.

They succeeded in dragging the process out for months, but when the state Supreme Court finally indicated that the administration could petition the court for the trustees' removal, they decided to resign instead.

OHA Chairman Clayton Hee said it was the right thing to do. It was really the expedient thing to do. The trustees -- now former trustees -- continued to abuse the governor and ascribe unworthy motives to him. In fact, he is simply doing his duty to uphold the law. The authority to appoint interim trustees to fill vacancies is not something he invented. It is an obvious necessity.

Even before the Rice case was decided, Cayetano was forced to make appointments to the board because the trustees couldn't agree among themselves on the appointments.

The charge has been made that the governor is making a power play to take over the OHA board so he can dictate a settlement to the ceded lands dispute between the state and OHA. This has been denied and is improbable on its face, if only because of the brief time remaining before the elections.

Clearly appointment of the trustees by the governor is undesirable because the board should be elected. But appointment is necessary under these unusual circumstances.

The appointed trustees should defer all major decisions until the newly elected trustees can take office. And the abuse of the governor for doing his duty should cease.

Summit leaders made
ambitious promises

Bullet The issue: World leaders meeting at the Millennium Summit pledged they would meet many ambitious goals.
Bullet Our view: The question is whether these were empty words or serious commitments.

A number of high-minded pledges were made at the United Nations Millennium Summit by the 146 assembled national leaders. The question is whether the words will be backed up with action.

It would be difficult if not impossible to fulfill all the vows. They included:

Bullet Cutting in half the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day and the number of people who do not have safe drinking water.
Bullet Enabling children everywhere to complete primary school.
Bullet Halting and reversing the spread of AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.

These goals are to be achieved in a mere 15 years, the declaration says.

In addition, it commits world leaders to improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, and to close the so-called digital divide by working to make the fruits of globalization available to the poor. There are pledges to end human rights violations and the scourge of war.

The declaration calls on industrialized countries to adopt, preferably by May 2001, a policy of duty- and quota-free access for essentially all exports from the poorest nations.

The 15-nation Security Council weighed in with a pledge to make the United Nations more effective "in addressing conflict at all stages from prevention to settlement to post-conflict peace-building."

These goals are without exception desirable but it would take an extreme optimist to believe the leaders will come anywhere close to achieving them.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan insisted the promises made at the summit were not empty. He said the challenge now is for the leaders to return home and turn the declaration into action.

Disappointment is nothing new for the U.N. Founded on the ashes of World War II, it was supposed to usher in an era of peace and progress. Instead the next half-century was dominated by wars, both hot and cold, between Soviet imperialism and Western democracy.

Despite the collapse of communism, the world is wracked by war, poverty and environmental destruction.

The dawn of a new millennium is an appropriate occasion to make a fresh start at tackling the world's problems. It is just possible that the summit conference will not turn out to have been an empty rhetorical exercise. But it is hard to feel confident that it won't be.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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