Sunday, May 13, 2001

ADB Conference Logo

Activists, ADB
praise Hawaiian

But one sovereignty leader
slams the bank's 'divide and
conquer' tactics

By Jean Christensen
Associated Press

Planners of the Asian Development Bank meeting saw Hawaii's isolation as a welcome barrier to outside activists who might have tried to stir up violent street protests against the international lending agency.

But bank officials also were concerned about the attention the meeting could attract from activists within Hawaii, particularly those tied to the native Hawaiian sovereignty movement. That concern was reflected in their decision to reach out to one of the most radical members of the diverse movement, Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele.

The result was an unusual, if temporary, understanding between native Hawaiian activists and powerful regional financial officials.

The bank's annual board of governors meeting at the Hawaii Convention Center last week drew only peaceful protests, the largest of them Wednesday's march through Waikiki by about 500 demonstrators.

The only seriously disruptive incident occurred after the meetings when a bomb threat caused the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra to send a packed audience of 2,000 home without music Friday night, blaming security concerns surrounding the ADB conference and the fact that the audience included conference dignitaries.

Kanahele believes his involvement with the ADB conference helped diffuse tension while educating top U.S. and Asian officials about the sovereignty movement. But other Hawaiian activists say the protests were peaceful despite, rather than because of, a bank strategy they view as cynical.

"That's the tactic -- divide and conquer," said Vicky Holt Takamine, a kumu hula and sovereignty activist who turned down an invitation to get involved with the convention. "I'm not willing to play that game."

Bank spokesman Ian Gill said the aim of reaching out to the Hawaiian community was purely educational, as bank officials were battling confusion over the ADB's mission of reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific.

"It was horrifying, the lack of knowledge about the bank," Gill said.

The Philippine-based agency provides nearly $6 billion in loans each year for development projects in the region. But Gill said activists have unfairly linked it to controversial groups such as the World Trade Organization, whose 1999 meeting in Seattle touched off a wave of anti-globalism protests that swept through other cities where international financial officials met.

Critics say the Asian bank's projects are often ill-advised and poorly monitored, and widen the gap between rich and poor.

Asian Development Bank

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