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Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Monument proposal
needs public’s views

Bullet The issue: A proposal for the president to establish a national monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is under consideration in Washington.

Bullet Our view: The proposal should be submitted for public discussion before action is taken.

FISHING interests and environmentalists are lining up on opposing sides on a proposal that could ban fishing and gathering corals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the string of small, uninhabited islands extending 1,400 miles northwest of Kauai. This could happen if President Clinton or his successor designates the islands as a national monument.

The division of opinion is reflected in the federal government. The Interior Department supports the monument designation because it would afford greater protection for the area from fishing and other human activity. The Commerce Department favors a designation as a sanctuary, which would be less restrictive.

Members of the Hawaiian environmental alliance Kahea flew to Washington to lobby for the monument status, to be surrounded by a marine sanctuary.

Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, national monuments can be established by the president without the approval of Congress. However, this proposal has aroused strong opposition, from Governor Cayetano and the Hawaii congressional delegation. Cayetano has written Clinton, saying the islands' uses for fishing, ecotourism and refueling of transpacific aircraft should be protected.

The immediate problem is that the question has not been put to public discussion. Senator Inouye has said he was concerned about "the administration's interest in immediately establishing, without any public input, areas around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands within which all activities are permanently prohibited except for Native Hawaiian access and subsistence."

Hawaii Reps. Abercrombie and Mink have also stated that they oppose monument designation and prefer a sanctuary. Senator Akaka has not taken a position but sees a need for community involvement.

Kitty Simonds, director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, said the proposal circumvents the public process and laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

This issue demands public discussion, particularly in Hawaii, before a decision is made. There are already plans in existence governing fishing and protection of coral reefs in the region. The proposal presumes that these plans are inadequate. If so what reasonable measures short of an outright ban might be taken? To proceed with a ban on fishing without full consideration of the alternatives and of public opinion would be irresponsible.

Slavery reparations

Bullet The issue: A group of lawyers is preparing a lawsuit that will seek reparations for blacks descended from slaves.

Bullet Our view: The best method of healing the scars of slavery is through education and employment opportunities.

MOST Americans today appreciate the unforgivable tyranny that was imposed upon blacks during 240 years of legalized slavery. In this century, various measures have been taken to atone for those misdeeds and to bring racial equality to life in the United States. Now a group of civil-rights and class-action lawyers is preparing a lawsuit to seek reparations. Such a court fight, however, would only aggravate the divisions that remain.

Groups that have experienced discrimination have sought and won reparations in recent years. The U.S. government has given $20,000 to each Japanese-American held in internment camps in World War II.

Austria last week established a $380,000 fund to compensate Nazi-era slave laborers who were born in six Eastern European nations. Black farmers claiming discrimination won a $1 billion settlement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In those cases, however, the reparations were awarded for persons who were directly victimized.

Organizers of a project called the Reparations Assessment Group have yet to determine when such a suit will be filed, who will be named as defendants and what damages will be sought. Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree, one of the organizers, says the suit "will be seeking more than just monetary compensation...A political solution would be the most sensible but I don't have a lot of faith that's going to happen. So we need to look aggressively at the legal alternative."

However, the institution of slavery began long before the sale of a human being recorded in 1619 in Jamestown, Va. It was presaged by man's bondage of man for centuries on every continent and without a single racial pattern.

A lawsuit seeking reparations from the slavery in the United States could be followed by an endless stream of third-party defendants through the annals of history. There could be no foreseeable end.

Ogletree says the group wants "full recognition and a remedy of how slavery stigmatized, raped, murdered and exploited millions of Africans through no fault of their own."

Americans today recognize the injustice of slavery and the damage it did to African Americans, and we see little to be gained in this respect through a lawsuit. Just as no former slaves are alive today, no living Americans were slaveowners and most are not the descendants of slaveowners. This makes the goal of seeking justice through reparations elusive.

The best remedy is through educational and employment opportunities that are currently being provided.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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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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