Friday, September 14, 2001

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Governor supports
ceded-land court ruling

He lauds the state Supreme Court's
decision as a chance for a new, fair law

By Pat Omandam

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the state Supreme Court was correct in dismissing a 1994 Office of Hawaiian Affairs lawsuit against the state.

"This ruling offers the state and the Legislature an opportunity to develop a new law that is reasonable and fair to all," the governor said.

Wednesday's court decision invalidated a 1990 state law that calculated how much the state must pay OHA in revenues from ceded or former public trust lands.

Retired attorney H. William Burgess said the ruling is a sign that OHA should be dissolved.

Burgess, along with several others last year, supported the state in its dispute with OHA over past-due revenue from certain ceded lands.

Yesterday, Burgess applauded the justices decision, saying it removes a big cloud over the state's economic landscape. The revenue in dispute was estimated between $300 million and $1.2 billion.

With the high court decision wiping the slate clean, OHA must once again ask legislators to find another way to calculate what its share should be in ceded-land revenue.

"I hope they (legislators) take this as an opportunity to recognize that OHA is unconstitutional and rescind all the legislation that creates OHA," responded Burgess, who said OHA's $325 million investment portfolio should be returned to the state.

State Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) has said she would try to push the measure in the Senate, while House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke (D, Nuuanu) said it would be ignorant of House members not to try to help OHA.

"Whether there's going to be some resolution, I'm not sure," Luke said. "The worst thing we can do at this point is ignore the issue and not do anything about it."

Rowena Akana, who as an OHA trustee for the past 10 years has watched the entire ceded-land dispute play out, had harsh words for the Hawaii justices. She attributed their decision against OHA to partisan politics.

"These people lacked the courage to make the right decisions, and it's very sad because Hawaii is probably one of the worst states in the nation where politics plays a big role in business, in everything that goes on in the state," Akana said.

"And consequently, even judicial decisions are sometimes made based on political influence," she said.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Bullet U.S. Public Law 103-150
Bullet OHA Ceded Lands Ruling
Bullet Rice vs. Cayetano
Bullet U.S. Supreme Court strikes OHA elections
Bullet Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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