OHA leaders urged to move beyond dispute over letter
Maui resident Kaleikoa Ka‘eo speaks at community meeting in Lahaina hosted by OHA's Board of Trustees.
News Release from OHA
MAUI (May 19, 2014) – Fallout from the much-publicized letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry created an intense swirl of attention for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees at two meetings on Maui that both drew more than 100 people.
Most of the Native Hawaiians who spoke at the four-hour community meeting May 14 in Lahaina, then at the regular board meeting in Wailuku the next day, voiced strong support for OHA’s Ka Pouhana and CEO Kamana‘opono Crabbe, whose letter asked Kerry about the status of the Hawaiian Kingdom under international law.
In spirited testimony that often drew cheers and applause, a parade of speakers at the meeting defended the letter as long overdue, appealing to trustees to work through differences with Crabbe over it and refocusing on facilitating efforts to form a Hawaiian nation. (Not unless “refocusing on” is now OHA-speak for “abandoning”.)
Some also praised trustees for sitting and listening to community concerns about not letting any hard feelings about the letter to Kerry cloud their best judgment of Crabbe, who directly reports to OHA’s nine-member Board of Trustees.
“We will take everything under consideration as we deliberate as a board,” Maui Trustee Hulu Lindsey told the crowd before adjourning the community meeting at Waiola Church Hall at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14 in Lahaina.
The May meetings on Maui marked the start of the Board of Trustees’ annual round of community forums and regular board meetings on neighbor islands. Next up will be Moloka‘i, where a community meeting is scheduled for June 18 and a regular board meeting is planned for June 19 at Kūlana ‘Oiwi.
Among the most animated speakers at the Maui meetings was Kaleikoa Ka‘eo, Hawaiian studies instructor at Maui County College, who during his comments at both meetings handed out historical Hawaiian documents and literature to trustees and those in attendance.
“We all need to be educated before we start telling more lies,” said Ka‘eo, whose comments were often met with applause at the community meeting in Lahaina. “We will not accept misinformation. I ask you guys to be brave and listen to the community.”
Others like Foster Ampong told trustees that a legal opinion is long overdue on whether the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists as an independent nation under international law. “The question should have been answered 121 years ago,” he told OHA trustees. “I understand that it’s not a politically comfortable question to ask, but I support the intent and content of Dr. Crabbe’s letter.”
Blossom Feteira used her time at the microphone to tell trustees that their disagreement with Crabbe over the letter should not outweigh the ability he’s demonstrated to get things done as a Hawaiian leader. “He has never put himself above the needs of his people,” Feteira told OHA trustees. “And when you are a warrior in the fight we are fighting, sometimes you have to step outside the box.”
At the same time, the professionalism of trustees during the community meeting didn’t go unnoticed as some speakers publicly acknowledged them for sitting statue-still for up to four hours and politely listening to them talk without time limits or interruptions.