OHA should abandon its role in nation building
by Peter Apo, PeterApo.com, May 17, 2014 (UPDATE: Apo deleted this post from his blog May 19, 2014)
The nation-building effort undertaken by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to move toward an ‘Aha (constitutional convention) is on the verge of chaos. Anarchy is emerging as the prevailing governance model as we OHA Trustees seem like deer in headlights. The breach of institutional trust by OHA’s CEO in a direct challenge to OHA’s trustees has set an almost irreversible condition of operational dysfunction pitting employees, one against the other, in choosing sides. Some cower in fear for their jobs. This is the truth as I see it. I am an old man at 75 and find it excruciatingly painful to navigate the vestige of a ruptured institution that I have always revered. The core of OHA’s fiduciary duty, founded as a sacred trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians and Hawaiians, is being threatened and undermined by the out of control distraction of nation building. For this reason, I propose that OHA abandon its role in nation building. That means cancelling the proposed ‘Aha and reducing the scope of activities of our Washington D.C. office.
As the Chair of OHA’s Asset Resource and Management Committee, I believe that our governance efforts have yielded a poor return on investment. We have spent millions skirting about the edges of federal recognition. The failure of the Akaka Bill has caused us to hit the reset button. So here we are, splintered and flailing as to where we go from here.
The larger part of our fiduciary duty to beneficiaries is to help them to achieve quality of life with respect to housing, education, business, health care, legal services, community building and empowerment, cultural growth, support of key Hawaiian institutions, and so forth. What good would it be to have a nation if our people are broke, homeless, uneducated and disabled and our most revered Hawaiian institutions struggle to survive? By focusing on improving these conditions of existence, Hawaiians will be strengthened and can make informed choices to pursue whatever forms of nation on which they can agree independent of OHA. A nation is only as good as its people. Let the people take up the banner of nationhood on their own terms.
Finally, there is a clear need for reconciliation. First, reconcile within OHA. The trust between Trustees and the CEO must be restored. Employee relations within the agency need mending. Second, is to reconcile within the Hawaiian community. Our people seem diametrically divided about whether to seek federal recognition or international recognition or no recognition. Nothing I say here is meant to discourage any individual, group, or organization from pursuing nation building. Go for it.
OHA’s domination of the field of play is like a barrier reef preventing other organizations from stepping forward. If OHA relinquishes its position on the nation-building landscape it creates a vacuum and an opportunity for other Hawaiian institutions to step forward and fill the vacuum with an expanded leadership consortium. It creates a condition of “kakou” (we) and bridges the prevailing condition of us versus them.
For OHA, with all of the dissension in the community I feel that it simply is the time to stop, ho’omalu, take time, think, listen, and pray a lot. We have a lot of other work to do.
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