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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006

Cooldown is needed in Forbes burial case

In the midst of a temperate Hawaiian winter, the Forbes burial cave conflict has generated unseasonal heat. Anything to break the fever might be just what the doctor ordered.

Of course, it's a judge doing the ordering in this case, and what federal Judge David Ezra wants is a cooldown.

Ezra is encouraging the indigenous form of resolution known as ho'oponopono, allowing private discussions among those disputing the fate of buried cultural artifacts.

Judicial proceedings will continue, but if there's a private accord, the court will back off.

Agreement seems remote, but the ho'oponopono could produce at least one temporary but important benefit: a new focus for the combatants.

Finding common ground or at least making the effort could lower the tensions generated over the jailing of Edward Halealoha Ayau, leader of the group opposing retrieval of the artifacts. Ayau, an attorney by training, knew the risk when he refused Ezra's demand for information on the artifacts' location.

The true casualty here is not a single man but the cohesion of the Hawaiian community. Divisions will only grow wider with continuing rancor.

The court rightly is pressing on to enforce its order, but if disputants can come to terms in the meantime or at least draw closer, all the better.