Hawaiian government
plans run late

An official says OHA
underestimated how long it
would take to elect delegates

Efforts to create a new native Hawaiian government are behind schedule.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs had expected to hold an aha, or convening group, beginning next month, but hasn't elected delegates yet.

OHA logo The delegate election was supposed to take place last month as the first concrete step toward a government for native Hawaiians that would be somewhat similar to mainland Native American tribal governments.

Hawaiian activists view the new government as a step towards sovereignty, but the extent of its powers and how it would relate to existing state and county governments have yet to be determined.

OHA administrator Clyde Namuo says it is taking longer than expected to get the Hawaiian community to give their views on planning for the new government.

"This is not a reflection on the community or of any resistance," said Namuo. "It's just taking longer."

Plans for setting up a Hawaiian government are "most definitely still on," said Namuo, who briefed OHA trustees on an updated strategy on Monday.

OHA announced its Hawaiian governance plan May 1 amid court challenges to the constitutionality of state programs and agencies that exclusively benefit native Hawaiians.

A timeline called for representatives to the organizing convention to be elected in the first two weeks of November, with the convention to begin in January.

The body will design the Hawaiian government, OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said in her announcement last spring.

"The things we thought would be simple to move forward on are taking longer," Namuo said. "We are getting community input and the process of holding community meetings and follow-up meetings is taking longer than I originally thought."

The Hawaiian people are generally favorable to the OHA plans, and there has been a lot of positive response, Namuo said.

"It's about moving Hawaiian governance forward," he said. "But people need time to consider this. We underestimated the time that would take."

The trustees now hope to kick off the enrollment of Hawaiians for the nation-building program early next year, he said.

The election, open only to those with Hawaiian ancestry, probably will be held sometime next summer, with the convention to follow in late fall, Namuo said.

OHA took the lead in the effort because it is the only elected body representing native Hawaiians and because of its mandate under the state Constitution and state law to act for the betterment of native Hawaiians, Apoliona said in her announcement.

The plan calls for OHA to be dissolved after the formation of a new Hawaiian government and the state agency's assets transferred to the new governing entity.


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