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Thursday, October 19, 2000

Elect only
Hawaiians to OHA,
group urges

The Japanese American
Citizens League backs
Hawaiians' self-rule

By Pat Omandam

If you plan to vote in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections on Nov. 7, vote only for Hawaiian candidates, says the Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.

Honolulu Chapter President Allison Tanaka said today the chapter passed a resolution last week reaffirming its position not to infringe upon Hawaiian self-determination by voting in the OHA elections.

But since recent federal court rulings give all Hawaii voters credible reasons to vote in OHA, the chapter believes those who do should choose only Hawaiians.

There are 96 candidates running for nine OHA seats. About a dozen are non-Hawaiian.

"For those who choose to vote," Tanaka said, "JACL Honolulu Chapter urges -- out of respect for Hawaiians' right to self-governance -- (that they) vote only for Hawaiians for OHA trustees."

Tanaka stressed that the right to vote in OHA elections arises in a context of broader attacks on all Hawaiian rights and institutions. Taken together they amount to a "termination policy," she said.

According to the resolution, "Those who lead these attacks premise their arguments on denial of any historical or current hostility to Hawaiians, going so far as to assert that Hawaiians are not a distinct people with their own culture, because they have chosen to become Western and American."

The JACL's position is consistent with its efforts to support Hawaiian self-determination, said Haunani Apoliona, a former trustee who is seeking re-election to the seat she won in 1996.

"It is within the political will of all voters to determine which trustees sit at the table," Apoliona said. "And if there are nine Hawaiian trustees elected, it will be clearly the political will of the voters that prevail."

Tanaka said the National JACL also has adopted the chapter's position on Hawaiian self-determination. The Japanese American Citizens League has 25,000 members in 112 chapters nationwide.

More than 600,000 Hawaii voters are now eligible to vote for OHA trustees and will automatically receive OHA ballots when they check into polling places.

Four of the trustee seats are for regular four-year terms, while the remaining five seats are for special two-year terms that were created when the entire OHA board resigned in early September.

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