LETTER: Thirty Meter Telescope Impasse
The Maunakea Thirty Meter Telescope impasse has been dragging on for almost a month already. The TMT project has polarized the community against each other, and work at the existing telescopes has grinded to a halt. Yes, the telescope operators and the protesters reached a temporary agreement that will allow vehicular access to the summit. However, that access will be ultimately controlled by the protesters blocking Maunakea Access Road until this impasse is resolved.
The lack of government action to resolve this dispute makes me feel I’m living in a banana republic. We are a country of laws, which the state and county of Hawaii are failing to uphold. The Thirty Meter Telescope, along with all the lawful summit activities, are being held hostage. This point gets lost among all the rhetoric being spread through social media.
There are two paths forward—the protesters are forcibly removed by law enforcement, or a negotiated settlement takes place. If the protesters are forcibly removed it will leave an indelible stain on what makes Hawaii, Hawaii. It will also probably cause them to regroup in larger numbers in the summit area. But on the other hand, if the TMT is forced to leave, it will leave a lot of negative economic and social consequences also. As I stated above, the TMT has the legal right to start construction now.
This is why negotiations needs to start now between all the parties involved in this impasse. Mayor Kim has started these discussions, but he is dragging his feet while Rome burns. He has also stated that he doesn’t want any part of these negotiations, so I believe his efforts going forward are half-hearted at best. These negotiations need someone from the Hawaiian community to bring these diverse groups together to the table.
As it stands now, the state and county of Hawaii are being depicted as spineless on the world stage because of their inaction in this matter. There is a real opportunity here to change that narrative, without resorting to violence, by bringing all the parties together now for settlement talks.
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