Monday, January 1, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 1, 2001

Island Voices
Akaka bill just a boondoggle

By Eugene F. Douglass
Former candidate for U.S. Senate

We now read that Hawaii Sens. Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka will attempt again next session to win passage of Akaka’s "Native Hawaiian Initiative."

If this legislation is so great, why wasn’t it proposed six or seven years ago when President Clinton was new in office and there was a Democrat-controlled Congress?

In Washington, major changes were made in the bill that improved it some, but left it still fundamentally flawed. It does not address the main issues of sovereignty and land title being returned to native Hawaiians.

It pretends to "promise" sovereignty by setting up a new bureaucracy in the U.S. Department of the Interior to look after native Hawaiian issues and assets. More bureaucracy in Washington, telling native Hawaiians how to spend their money and how to run their affairs.

The Republicans in Congress want to bring money, responsibility, power and oversight back to local entities. The Democrats representing Hawaii want the power of the purse to remain in Washington in their hands and in the hands of the Interior Department, which has mismanaged, lost and even stolen billions of dollars in trust for Native American Indian tribes.

Now the senators want native Hawaiians to be looked over by the same department. Auwe!

Are Native Hawaiians so desperate that they must attach themselves to the Interior Department? Why did Sen. Akaka not suggest something original by setting up a working group in the U.S. State Department?

If the Interior Department ever has a role in native Hawaiian affairs, it should only be after a thorough housecleaning that accounts for the billions lost, billions mismanaged, treaties broken and land stolen. Until then, native Hawaiians should have nothing to do with that department.

Portions of this law may have been beneficial 10 to 30 years ago, when the economy was better in Hawaii and when the Democrats controlled Congress, but now it is just empty promises, promising money and programs at a huge price, of a real loss of sovereignty for people here locally to run their own programs (the good ones) with local supervision.

Clearly, this legislation was designed to benefit the current delegation and their native Hawaiian friends who would benefit personally from federal largess.

Clearly, the only positive direction would be legislation enabling native Hawaiians to represent themselves to the U.S. government, or as Americans (if they decide that), with a delegate in Congress, and for return of title to their former lands taken by the federal and state governments, with appropriate rent paid in the future for their continued use by federal or state government entities.

The rent paid would then be used to pay for education and other programs that they would run for their own benefit. U.S. taxpayers would not be burdened.

Clearly, it is time for new leadership in Washington, leadership that does not require or request more power for themselves, as clearly the current congressional delegation is unwilling to give up. Our current congressional delegation represents a small minority of special-interest groups, and a dead or dying ideology (of huge deficits and prolific wasteful spending benefiting a few).

Their idea of "sovereignty" is more federal control. Hawaiians, and all the people of Hawaii, deserve better in the 21st century.

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