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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 8, 2003

We don't need renewed tension over Kaho'olawe

It has taken decades for goodwill to develop between Native Hawaiians and the U.S. Navy over the sacred island of Kaho'olawe. And so we are dismayed to hear of a misunderstanding that has spurred the Navy to ban the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana from making its February trip to Kaho'olawe.

Apparently, the Navy is upset that the 'ohana ventured into the restricted Pu'u Moiwi area unescorted during a ceremonial visit the group was on in January.

But the 'ohana maintains that it was led to believe that the route was not off-limits. Besides, its members had visited the pu'u unescorted on previous trips without incident.

In addition, the Navy took issue with the 'ohana adding two children to its guest list on the January trip. Bad weather forced the children to stay home. Nonetheless, the Navy moved to reinforce its ban against children under 15.

Again, the 'ohana contends that children under 15 have been admitted to the island in the past on condition that they are strictly supervised.

Still a mine field

Of course, utmost safety precautions must be taken because the island is still a mine field of live ordnance from years of military exercises.

But there's no evidence that the 'ohana was playing fast and loose with the rules. Indeed, the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission, which will control access to the island when the federal government transfers it back to the state in nine months, has concluded that the dispute is the result of a communication breakdown between the 'ohana and the Navy.

We urge both sides to put this conflict behind them as swiftly as possible, considering Kaho'olawe's painful history.

During World War II, a small portion of the island was used as an artillery range. The day after the attack against Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy took over the entire island and began using it for bombing practice.

Later, Kaho'olawe became a lightening rod for the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. In 1976, Native Hawaiians formed the Protect Kaho'olawe 'Ohana, which called for the federal government to stop the bombing and return the island to Native Hawaiians.

Consent decree signed

Several members of the 'ohana took their lives into their hands as they occupied the island. They also sued for the return of the island on environmental and religious grounds. In 1980, the federal government signed a consent decree allowing visitors access to Kaho'olawe for cultural, educational, religious and archeological purposes.

Since then, the 'ohana has brought thousands of visitors to Kaho'olawe, and we would like to see this practice continue.

In 1990, President George Bush ordered a halt to all bombing on Kaho'olawe, and plans were launched to return the island to the state. Four hundred million dollars was eventually appropriated for a 10-year clean-up operation.

So much good has happened to heal the scars of Kaho'olawe. Let's not open old wounds.