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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 4, 2006

Foes hope bill reaches Senate floor

 •  Akaka bill close to floor debate

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer


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Even opponents in the debate over the Native Hawaiian recognition bill can agree on one thing: They would like to see the legislation pass a cloture vote and move to the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate.

From that point their viewpoints on the legislation take a drastic departure.

"I'd want it voted down," said H. William Burgess, an ardent opponent of the bill and member of the group Aloha for All. "That would sort of drive a stake into its heart and we wouldn't have to keep going through this dance every year."

Burgess opposes the bill with the same passion that others favor it. If the bill is passed and implemented, Congress would in essence break up the state and give away some or all of the state's public lands, natural resources, reefs, territorial waters, and most of its governmental powers of authority, Burgess said.

"It would basically put about 80 percent of the state into a position of servitude to a new congressionally created hereditary elite," he said.

Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, a Hawaiian activist, believes the bill is a welfare approach that would reduce Hawaiians to wards of the government.

"I'm not for anybody making up their mind for us and then laying the plan on the table after they've decided what to do for us," he said. "... I see the bill going down. It's too controversial and there's too much politics going on."

Kanahele would like to see the creation of an independent nation of Hawaiians, tied in part to what's known as the "apology bill." That 1993 bill, authored by Akaka, acknowledged the U.S. role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and apologized to Hawaiians on behalf of the nation.

Former Hawai'i Supreme Court Justice Robert Klein is among those who strongly support the bill because they say it gives Hawaiians an opportunity to achieve political status.

And that, Klein maintains, is the right thing to do.

"It's up to the Hawaiians whether they take advantage of the situation and form their own government," he said.

"We really hope the naysayers will come out on the short end of the vote. We know that they're working very hard on their positions."

The naysayers, according to Klein, fail to understand that what's good for Hawaiians is beneficial to the entire population.

"Although the bill helps the Hawaiian people, by helping them you help everyone else. If you can't provide Hawaiian people with appropriations and support, you're still going to have the problems that are created by people who are poor or in jail or have health issues," he said.

"And Hawaiians are prominent in those negative categories. We need to resolve the problem that's been kicking around for 113 years."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.