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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Honolulu calm, confident for ADB

 •  Hawaiian culture given prominent exposure
 •  Experts anticipate worldwide water crisis
Tourism Talk: Is the ADB worth its hype?
 •  Advertiser special: ADB in Hawai'i — global issues, local impact

By Mike Gordon, Johnny Brannon and Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writers

An air of easy-going readiness hung over the Hawai'i Convention Center today, with security guards dressed in slippers and lava lavas greeting delegates on the second day of the Asian Development Bank conference.

Just a few blocks away at Hawaiki Tower, FBI agents stood by with a Ha wai'i Army National Guard light armored vehicle, ready to move delegates in case of trouble.

"I must stress, it's only to be used for defensive purposes, and can be called out in support of civilian law enforcement," said National Guard Maj. Chuck Anthony, state security spokesman for the conference. "It was an HPD request to have it available."

None of the protesters who were expected to be present outside the conference were at the convention center this morning.

"It's great — no problems," said Rags Scanlan, president of Royal Guard Security.

Like most of his 30 employees pacing convention center entrances, Scanlan wore a black lava lava and slippers, a tribute to the deputy prime minister of Samoa attending the conference, he said.

Anthony said most of the protesters are expected tomorrow, when the march is planned. "You may see a few protesters show up across the street," he said with a shrug.

Loans to poor

Asian Development Bank delegates began arriving at the convention center yesterday for the start of the bank's annual conference. ADB provides loans and grants to help the world's poor.

Elaborate Hawaiian cultural exhibits inside the center gave the kickoff a distinctly local flavor, while sidewalk barricades, police and guards — including some University of Hawai'i football players — underscored the heightened security for the weeklong meetings and conference.

Fifty-nine nations are members of the bank, which will be holding its annual board of governor's conference drawing more than 3,000 participants.

Police reported no serious problems yesterday, but they closed off one lane of Kalakaua Avenue when a press conference by bank critics spilled over from the sidewalk.

A small group from indigenous communities in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other Asian nations that have financed infrastructure projects with ADB loans said the bank puts corporate profits ahead of people.

Poy Bun Nyok of Cambodia complained that a water project financed by the bank had flooded the area around her village and forced people to flee.

"Innocent people don't know where to go," she said through a translator. "People from the outside are destroying the traditional culture."

Inside the Convention Center, the manager of the ADB's Environment Division, J. Warren Evans, said the bank has increased protections for the environment and local communities.

"There are always going to be projects that present difficult environmental problems," he said. "The question is whether the bank can encourage countries to deal with the consequences to the greatest extent."

The ADB is trying to build systems that involve local residents in projects that affect them, he said, even in countries where leaders traditionally have not sought responses from those residents.

"Across the board, all of us have a ways to go to do this better, but we're all trying to improve what we do," Evans said.

Walden Bello, an economist and sociology professor from the University of the Philippines, questioned whether security efforts for the conference were designed to intimidate those who oppose the multilateral financial institution, which is based in Manila.

"We're all here in peace, and unfortunately the government of Hawai'i is displaying its fangs at people who just want to bring their story out," he said. "We don't think that is traditional Hawaiian aloha."

Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization also called the security excessive.

"Maybe some precautions have to be undertaken by a local government, but what I see here is just overkill. It's silly," he said. Menotti complained that media coverage of security had overshadowed challenges to the bank and its lending policies.

Anthony, the state's security spokesman, said the nature of the event and its international attendees demanded precautions.

"What is excessive?" he said. "The state has to ensure the people who are attending this conference can do it in a safe environment, and that's all we're doing. I haven't seen any intimidation at all. Nobody is going to infringe on anybody's First Amendment rights."

The protest group ADBwatch planned to hold its press conference on the Ala Wai promenade behind the Convention Center, but found their way blocked by barricades and security guards, with police officers stationed nearby.

An attorney representing the umbrella group of bank opponents blamed the confusion on a misunderstanding of a court agreement governing their protest plans. Hawai'i American Civil Liberties Union legal director Brent White agreed with authorities that access to the promenade would be allowed from tomorrow until Friday, between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

ADB Watch and other bank opponents plan to march past the Convention Center and through Waikiki tomorrow from noon.

Churchlike event

At an anti-ADB seminar last night at United First Methodist Church, near Thomas Square, speakers stood like pastors before a congregation of 300 listeners lined in pews next to banners that read "Alleluia" juxtaposed against signs reading "ADBwatch No

'Aloha' for the ADB!"

Bello drew applause by calling the ADB "a corporate monster."

"Corporate-driven globalization is wrong," he said. "It is bad and it leads to a dismal future."

Pilgrims to the cause came from places such as Cambodia and Thailand to spread the same message. "We're here to tell the ADB, 'Hey look, wait a minute, what your staff is telling you is not the truth,' said Beverly Longid , part of the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance, which opposes an ADB project in the Philippines.

Longid said the project, aimed at reducing poverty among farm families, is building roads instead of needed irrigation, and introducing crops that are overtaking native plants. The problem, she said, is that native people are not consulted first.

As for the high security presence, assistant police chief Boisse Correa said police want to be "visible yet invisible."

The conference has triggered a boom in the private security industry, and is expected to benefit hotels, restaurants and other businesses. But the disruption to normal business is hurting at least one company in the area.

Business affected

Ginette Eskinazi of Dale G. Gripps Jeweller at Century Center, 1750 Kalakaua Ave., said the busy week leading up to Mother's Day will be a bust this year.

"We were expecting $50,000 to $100,000 in sales, but now we're looking at a zero," Eskinazi said. "We're going to close (tomorrow) because of the march. A lot of customers are just staying away. Some are calling and saying they don't want to come in because of the anticipated problems."

Another security measure will be added late tonight, as concrete barriers are placed in the center of roadways fronting the Convention Center for tomorrow's protest march from Magic Island to Kapi'olani Park that is expected to draw more than 2,000 demonstrators.

The barriers are designed to keep marchers on the 'ewa side Atkinson Drive and the mauka side of Kapi'olani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue in the area of the Convention Center from noon to 1:15 p.m. They will not affect the normal flow of traffic at other times, police said. The barriers are to be removed tomorrow night.

Park access limited

Meanwhile, police have closed off portions of Ala Moana Park and Ala Wai Community Park as staging areas for the officers. The Kewalo Basin-side entrance is closed to traffic through Saturday night, and public access to the park is being permitted only on the diamondhead end. The area from McCoy Pavilion to the 'ewa end of the park is closed to the public. The beaches are not affected.

Unarmed Royal Guard Security officers are positioned in front of the Convention Center for nonconfrontational duty. The company includes several UH football players. Among those on duty yesterday were placekicker Justin Ayat, offensive linemen Manley Kanoa III and Vince Manuwai and defensive back Hyrum Peters.

The Department of Transportation Services is banning parking on various streets near the convention center because of security and traffic concerns.

Parking will be prohibited through Friday on Fern Street (between Kalakaua Avenue and McCully Street); on Ke'eaumoku Street (between Kapi'olani Boulevard and King Street); Kaheka (between Kapi'olani Boulevard and King Street); and Kahakai Street.

Advertiser staff writers Glenn Scott, Curtis Lum, Robbie Dingeman, Tanya Bricking and David Waite contributed to this report.