Hawai'i must set open tone for ADB meeting
The best bet for organizers and security officials of the upcoming meeting of the Asian Development Bank is to honor concepts of free speech and free assembly in deed as well as in word.
Organizers are keenly aware of the need for security, particularly with the prospect that the guest list could include many heads of state, up to and including President Bush.
Failure to plan for proper security would be inexcusable. But within those security guidelines, organizers must do more than pay lip service to the needs of those who wish to protest the bank. The surest way to guarantee headlines about protest rather than serious discussion would be to unnecessarily clamp down on the activities of the protesters.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i has filed a lawsuit that argues the city's security plans unnecessarily infringe on the free speech rights of prospective demonstrators. Labor groups have either joined in the lawsuit or have backed the efforts of the protesters. This sets in motion an unnecessary tone of confrontation right off the bat.
Gov. Ben Cayetano said last week he was convinced this meeting can go off without the kind of confrontation that marred similar meetings elsewhere. Hawai'i has a definite stake in making sure that Cayetano's hopes are met.
If we can handle our meeting with decorum, with robust protest and with serious dialogue between those within the bank and those outside who oppose its policies, Hawai'i will go on the map as a place where protest and policy can happen, peacefully, side by side.
That is a reputation worth marketing.