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View Point

By D.G. "Andy" Anderson

Wednesday, December 20, 2000

There’s hope for
Hawaiian legislation

As a part Hawaiian, I share the disappointment regarding the U.S. Senate's decision to kill the bill on Hawaiian self-determination this year. It was so, so close.

While the rejection comes as no surprise, considering the confusion over the presidential race and other higher priority items pending before the Senate, it is the statement about the Akaka bill from Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe that I find most alarming. He said, "Some of us will still have concerns, and we'll be prepared to talk about them." He also opposed the legislation on philosophical grounds, "believing that it would amount to racial preference for Native Hawaiians."

There are some in Hawaii who have devoted so much of their lives to this cause that they sincerely believe that no one else is entitled to an opinion. Having spent some 25 years in the Hawaii state Legislature and as the city's managing director, working with all levels of government, political parties, extreme partisans and people from all walks of life, I'm sorry to say that anyone who believed this effort would succeed the first time around was sorely mistaken. This process will take many years, and will be successful only if we all remain patient. Patience, understanding and respect for opposing viewpoints are essential if we expect to win self-determination.

If this decision were going to be made by "Hawaiians for Hawaiians," it would still be a difficult task. There are many opposing positions held today in the Hawaiian community itself. But it will not be decided by Hawaiians. Washington lawmakers and a Republican administration will ultimately decide the Native Hawaiian legislation. If doubters such as Senator Inhofe are to be persuaded to support this legislation, it will take Senators Akaka and Inouye working quietly behind the scenes, presenting a viable, fair and realistic proposal. A divided Hawaii community, public outbursts, extreme public statements and TV antics will only strengthen the opponents' position.

What can those who have been leading this effort do? I suggest that the Hawaiian community spend every moment between now and when the bill resurfaces next year, making every effort to come together as one voice in united support. It will be of utmost importance that the legislation be supported by the greater majority of Hawaii's population, both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.

I have spoken to many non-Hawaiians and they have asked quietly, "If successful, what does or would this movement do to our land, homes and future?" This is an honest question and a sincere concern.

It is my personal belief that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has lost much support among local people who voted to create OHA in 1978. Thousands of new residents to Hawaii have no idea what OHA stands for or what Hawaiian sovereignty means. We need their support if we are to win, and we need to rekindle the support of the local people of Hawaii. We need to reassure them that what is good for the Hawaiian community does not threaten them in any way and can be good for the state as a whole.

Fortunately, we now have a new, legally constituted OHA. Its members are accountable to all the voters of Hawaii for their actions and conduct. This will help immensely. They must now take the lead. In formulating this Hawaiian plan for the Hawaiian community, they must not forget to integrate it with the dreams and aspirations of all of Hawaii's residents. They cannot and should not attempt to consider one without the other.

When we go back to Washington with new legislation -- and we will -- it must be with one position, as one people, with one purpose supported by the majority...all of us.

D.G. "Andy" Anderson is a developer
and former Republican legislator.

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