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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Group asks to join Akaka discussion

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau


Members of Hui Pu, a group of Hawaiian activists who oppose a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill, asked the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs yesterday to include them in a live television discussion on the bill but were turned away.

OHA will host a discussion at 7 tonight on KITV 4 on issues related to the bill, which could come up for a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate in September.

The panelists are Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the OHA board of trustees; Tony Sang, chairman of the state Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations; Jon Van Dyke, a University of Hawai'i-Manoa constitutional law professor; and Beadie Kanahele Dawson, an attorney and Hawaiian activist.

Ikaika Hussey, a member of Hui Pu, said he asked OHA to include the group to give viewers the perspective of Hawaiians who oppose the bill.

He sent an e-mail to Clyde Namu'o yesterday morning and then visited OHA's offices in the afternoon.

"To me, it's an act of cowardice," he said of OHA's refusal.

Namu'o said the television program is a discussion, not a debate, and will provide an overview of the bill.

The measure, known as the Akaka bill, would create a process for Native Hawaiians to establish their own government that could negotiate with the state and federal governments on land use and other issues.

Hawaiians, including those, such as members of Hu Pui, who favor independence, would decide on what form a new government would take after the bill passes, Namu'o said.

"That's not an issue we need to be debating now," he said.

But Hussey and other opponents say federal recognition, similar to what already exists for American Indians and Alaska Natives, would make it harder for Hawaiians to seek independence.

Dexter Ke'eaumoku Ka'iama, another member of Hui Pu, said OHA should not be using state money to present only a favorable view of the bill. OHA has actively supported the bill and has hired lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to advance it in Congress.

"We're saying, 'educate, not manipulate,' " Ka'iama said.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.