Posted at 12:19 p.m., Thursday, December 22, 2005
Judge to weigh Hui Malama contempt issue
|•||PDF file: Order issued today by U.S. District Judge David Ezra|
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
Ezra had given the nonprofit Native Hawaiian organization until 4 p.m. yesterday to disclose the exact locations of 83 priceless cultural objects it had borrowed from Bishop Museum in 2000 and has not returned. Hui Malama members said the items are buried in two remote Big Island caves from where they were taken in 1905 by western archaeologists.
Two other Native Hawaiian organizations, Na Lei Alii Kawananakoa and the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts, sued Hui Malama and the museum seeking the return of the artifacts until claimants to the items can agree on where they should go.
Hui Malama members, rather than disclose the exact location of the objects, on Thursday issued declarations explaining that their religious and cultural beliefs bar them from revealing the exact whereabouts. Attorneys for the organization have objected strenuously to the removal of the items on the grounds that doing so would be offensive and tantamount to stealing.
In today's four-page order, Ezra made it clear he found Hui Malama's response non-compliant with his order "since it did not include the precise locations of each and every item loaned to it by the Bishop Museum as described in the order, or the names and addresses of each person who has knowledge of the exact location of any of the items."
He ordered Hui Malama executive director Edward Halealoha Ayau and board members Pualani Kanaka'ole Kanahele, Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., William Aila and Antoinette Freitas to appear before him at 10 a.m. Tuesday "to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with this Court's Order Settling Compliance Dates."
Alan Murakami, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. which is representing Hui Malama, said Tuesday's hearing will be "certainly one of those defining moments because this is where the rubber hits the road."
He added: "The judge is going to determine if my clients' religious beliefs are deserving of constitutional protection."
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 525-8026.