Molokai residents should
have input on cruise ships


Residents of Molokai are split about plans for ships to bring passengers to its shores.

HIGH winds were cited by Holland-America as the reason for taking Molokai off the itinerary of its Statendam cruise ship last weekend. Another storm awaited passengers at the Kaunakakai Wharf. Many Friendly Isle residents intended to greet the prospective visitors with open arms, but others protested such a huge influx of tourists. The community needs assurance that future visits will benefit the economy without damaging the environment and the island's rural charm.

The Statendam's next stop at Molokai is scheduled in three weeks, and other visits are planned by Holland America and being considered by other cruise operators. The 1,266 visitors aboard the Statendam were expected to spend an average of $60 during their one-day visit, totaling more than $130,000, a major boost for an island of only 6,700 residents.

Governor Lingle has joined the Molokai Visitors Association and new Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa in endorsing the cruise ship visits. Molokai's tourism lasts year nearly doubled that of 2000, but it still is afflicted with the state's highest unemployment rate -- 8.8 percent in October, nearly twice the state's jobless figure. Molokai clearly needs more economic activity without harming its environment and lifestyle.

A group called Hui Hoopakele Aina -- "Rescue the Land" -- filed a lawsuit in early December seeking to halt the Statendam's plans, but state Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto refused to issue an order to block the inaugural visit. Use of the Kaunakakai harbor does not require a special permit, and Holland America appears to be in conformity with all other legal requirements.

Live music, a whale watch, mule rides and other activities were planned for passengers who were to be brought to shore by boat from the Statendam, anchored offshore. Artisans had set up tables at the pier to market their wares. The tourists also were to be taken on trips around the island.

Protesters, led by longtime activist Walter Ritte Jr., complained that the Statendam's anchor could damage reefs and that sewage and chemicals would be dumped overboard, polluting nearshore waters. Such dumping is not allowed; protesters say cruise ships worldwide have repeatedly violated pollution regulations.

"If it could be done all over again, I think the representatives of the cruise lines and the state agencies that issued the permits should have given the community a chance for input," Maui County Councilman Danny Mateo told the Maui News while viewing the harbor protest. "If the community had had that chance, I don't think you would have seen this (protest) today."

Further protests can be expected unless the state provides information before the next Statendam visit that better assures protection of reefs and ocean waters near Molokai. Isle residents can take responsibility for handling the large crowds on shore in a way that reaps the benefits of tourism while protecting their lifestyle.


Spirited effort
saved Japanese center


The cultural center has met a deadline for paying off loans to avoid foreclosure.

FACED with $9 million in debts, the Japanese Cultural Center seemed only a few months ago to be on the verge of collapse. Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano had vetoed an inappropriate bailout approved by the Legislature, and the center's structure on Beretania Street was put up for sale. However, members of the cultural center balked at the idea of such a sale and instead embarked on an extraordinary fund-raising campaign to save the center. The drive met an end-of-year deadline for bank payments and appears headed for permanent success.

The fund-raising effort blended the strong feelings about the importance of sustaining the Japanese heritage in Hawaii with the American ethic of volunteerism and private initiative. Those who participated in the mission can take great pride in their achievement and see it through to its fruition.

Center officials had not initiated the legislative action and were embarrassed to learn that a state senator had successfully engineered a bill that would have paid the center's debts with public money. After the governor's veto and the decision in early October by the center directors to put the building on the market, Glenn Masunaga, a dentist and chairman of the Makiki Japanese Language School, led the fund-raising effort with a $500,000 contribution.

In less than two months, more than 7,000 supporters of the center, including its 2,000 members, raised the $6 million in principal required by four banks to avoid foreclosure. The banks cooperated by forgiving $1.5 million in outstanding interest on the debt. Businessman Colbert Matsumoto, who headed the organization's fund-raising subcommittee, said the effort will continue in order to pay off $1.5 million to non-bank creditors.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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