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OHA Reiterates Demand for Safe TMT Protest Area

July 14, 2019, 2:23 PM HST
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The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) leadership reiterated their demand that the state immediately hold all construction relating to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) until it provides and recognizes a safe place for Native Hawaiians and others to peacefully assemble and protest TMT and the state’s longstanding mismanagement of Maunakea, according to a July 13, 2019, OHA press release.

Maunakea kiaʻi recently designated a more than five-acre area on a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands parcel at the base of Maunakea as Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu, a traditional place of refuge. More than 500 protectors, including keiki and kūpuna, have gathered at Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu to peacefully protest TMT construction.

OHA Chair Colette Machado and Trustee Dan Ahuna, chair of the OHA Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on Mauna Kea, released the following statement today:

We urge state officials to recognize Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu as a safe place for peaceful assembly and protest by OHA beneficiaries and others who have long voiced concerns about the state’s decades-long mismanagement of Maunakea.

The establishment of Puʻuhonua o Puʻuhuluhulu as a safe place for cultural practices and peaceful expression of opposition represents one of the four steps we demanded the state take before starting construction activities relating to TMT.

We continue to implore and demand that the state immediately hold all TMT construction activities until it takes further steps to ensure the safety of OHA beneficiaries and the public.

For the last few months, there has been growing concern within the Native Hawaiian community that the state’s longstanding mismanagement of Maunakea, exasperated now with the government’s single-minded determination to force the construction of TMT regardless of all consequences, would lead to conflict that will ultimately result in physical harm to our beneficiaries who want nothing more than to protect one of our most sacred places.

We as a society must set aside our differences on TMT and now focus on the well-being of our beneficiaries and the public. Until the state can provide meaningful assurances for public safety, construction of the TMT must be placed on hold.

In a letter sent to Gov. David Ige late Friday, July 12, OHA Chair Machado and Trustee Ahuna demanded a halt to TMT construction until the following steps are taken by government officials to protect Native Hawaiians and the public:

Condemn and prohibit, unconditionally, any further government action to provoke or intimidate Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners or Protectors, including through the dismantling of culturally or spiritually significant structures or the issuance of unfounded allegations or statements that mischaracterize or dismiss cultural and environmental concerns;

Coordinate with all relevant state and county agencies, UH officials, OHA representatives, and Native Hawaiian community members to meaningfully alleviate tensions within the Native Hawaiian community and recognize and respect all cultural beliefs regarding the sacred Mauna, as necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of OHA’s beneficiaries;

Prohibit, unconditionally, the use of any and all unwarranted force against nonviolent protestors and Protectors, including the use of any Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) or “less-than-lethal” weapons and crowd control devices capable of inflicting bodily or psychological harm; and

Ensure the safety of all who wish to exercise their cultural practices and right to peaceful expression and opposition, including through the mutually agreed-upon establishment of sufficient spaces where Protectors and practitioners may safely assemble, rest, monitor, and voice their opposition to any government-sanctioned activities that may occur on Maunakea, including near or on its summit and near any cultural features or sites.

OHA has yet to receive a response to the July 12 letter from the state.

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About the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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Established by the state Constitutional Convention in 1978, OHA is a semi-autonomous state agency mandated to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians. Guided by a board of nine publicly elected trustees, OHA fulfills its mandate through advocacy, research, community engagement, land management and the funding of community programs. Learn more at www.oha.org.

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