By Andrew Walden
The US Senate reconvenes Tuesday, September 8. Senator Dan Inouye told the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce August 18 that the Akaka Bill “…is something Congress will address within its first week back in session after the August recess….”
At the 50th Anniversary Hawaii Statehood Conference Hawaiian Cultural navigation plenary session, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Oswald Stender told the eight panelists that “This is our one and only chance—this year” for passage of the Akaka Bill.
But is the Bill ready? Or more to the point--with it all on the line, are Hawaiian leaders ready to accept the Akaka Bill?
Since the June 11 House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on HR 2314, the Akaka Bill has been the subject of an intense battle--largely un-reported in the pages of the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin, even as the various players battle it out with op-eds. The August 6 hearing of the US Senate Indian Affairs Committee showed no progress in resolving the dispute.
On one side, the so-called "sovereignty" activists, a disgusting gaggle of ex-cons, child abusers, mortgage scammers, drug pushers, and other miscellaneous convicted criminals--plus a few professors and lawyers--whose dreams of riches and glory now hinge on the "cultural" PASH-based greenmail shake down schemes aimed at developers, landowners and even single family homeowners.
On the other side, the OHA gang, which subsidizes many of the sovereignty activists and their legal organ the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, but seeks control of billions of dollars worth of Hawaii real estate via formation of the Akaka Tribe.
Forcing them to choose between the two paths: the Obama Administration and Senator Inouye backed by Governor Lingle.
The Native Hawaiian Bar Association (NHBA) earlier this summer argued:
“The bill’s provisions on claims and federal sovereign immunity appear to be overly broad and may prohibit lawsuits by individual Native Hawaiians for claims that could be pursued by any other member of the general population.”
With the Senate about to reconvene, has any progress been made to resolve the impasse? A sharply-worded September 6 Star-Bulletin commentary by Kihei Soli Niheu and J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Ph.D. suggests not. The two long-time sovereignty leaders take issue with an August 24 commentary by Jon M Van Dyke, author of "Who owns the Crown lands of Hawaii?" They bitterly complain that Van Dyke:
"promotes an Akaka Bill that will shut down all U.S. court doors to Kanaka Maoli claims: 'It is the general effect of section 8 (c)(2)(B) [of the Bill] that any claims that may already have accrued and might be brought against the United States ... be rendered nonjusticiable in suits brought by plaintiffs other than the Federal Government.'"
They are not the only ones attacking Section 8(c). In her August 6 Senate Indian Affairs Committee testimony Robin Danner of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) demanded 8(c) be replaced with language stating:
“Nothing in this Act is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States or the State of Hawaii.”
This creates a direct challenge to Inouye and to Obama's DoJ represented figuratively and literally at the August 6 Senate Indian Affairs committee hearing, by Sam Hirsch, a former Dan Inouye staffer appointed by Obama to the US Department of Justice. Hirsch emphasized:
“…the legislation contains provisions that specifically state that Congress does not intend to create any new legal claims against the United States. The Department supports these provisions and believes they should remain in the bill. In particular, the Department supports section 8(c) in S. 1011, which provides that nothing in the bill creates a cause of action against or waives the sovereign immunity of the United States.”
The full US House has twice voted its approval of the Akaka Bill, but something stopped the House Committee on Natural Resources dead in its tracks when it was scheduled to "mark up" the Akaka Bill to the full House July 9. The July 8 Advertiser explained:
"The vote postponement follows some written criticisms of the bill by prominent members of the Native Hawaiian legal community. In a four-page analysis of the legislation sent to the Natural Resources Committee, the Native Hawaiian Bar Association voiced concern that some provisions would grant the federal government too much immunity against potential claims by Native Hawaiians, especially for land."
And this is only one of several issues under dispute.
Is this a showdown or a circular firing squad?
Will the Senate also choke?
We will likely find out very soon.
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