TMT Hearing: Native Hawaiian PUEO President Supports TMT Project
Thus far, the majority of Native Hawaiians testifying as witnesses during the contested case hearing for the state Board of Land and Natural Resources Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project, have opposed it.
But on Wednesday, Feb. 15, nonprofit Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities (PUEO) President and University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Ph.D. candidate Keahi Warfield took the stand in support of the TMT project.
If the project is not constructed, Warfield sees the potential loss of educational experiences it could offer Hawaiʻi’s keiki.
When introducing Warfield, Attorney Lincoln Ashida, said that Warfield agreed that the eight criteria in the Hawaiʻi Administration Rules section 13-5 were met—something petitioners questioned.
But even with opposing opinions regarding the project’s fate, a different sentiment was exchanged between petitioners and Warfield during the cross-examination process.
Petitioners expressed their appreciation, thanking him for his personal truths and services he provides to the children of Hawaiʻi—especially Native Hawaiians.
“Let me just express to you… ” said KAHEA Attorney Dexter Kaiama. “Coming from a family where my brother-in- law is one of the supporters of TMT—he’s one of those [two Native Hawaiian] astronomers—that we can have a great conflict in family, but still have great love for each other. We are very much opposed to each other on this issue, but when it comes to family, we still love each other.”
Petitioner Billy Freitas shared that same sentiment.
“I want to congratulate you on all your accomplishments,” he said. “You’re a Native Hawaiian that make me proud. And all what you do for the children, keiki o ka ʻāina and for others—not just our Native Hawaiians. I commend you as a Native Hawaiian. You give me so much pride.”
Warfield’s mission is to instill pride in the youth and help turn their passion and talent into a career in Hawaiʻi, something PUEO aims toward.
Warfield shared a story of one of his students who felt her dream of becoming an astronomer come to an end after her uncle said it would “unHawaiian” of her to do so.
This is one of the reasons why Warfield thinks there must be a solution allowing the TMT project to exist on Mauna Kea.
Petitioner Kalani Flores asked Warfield that if the TMT project were to not offer educational opportunities, if his support would change. He said he would still support it.
Warfield acknowledged that it is difficult to become an astronomer, but if there was access to that education, there would be more Native Hawaiian astronomers.
Flores then asked, if there are 13 telescopes that already exist on the mountain, why are there only two Native Hawaiian astronomers?
Warfield said he did not know why.
The BLNR contested case hearing is scheduled to continue Feb. 21, 22, 23, 27 and 28 in the Grand Naniloa Hotel Crown Room in Hilo from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.