Firing called for Prince Kūhiō Plaza GM who stopped legendary Hawaiian entertainers for safety reasons

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Legendary singer Melveen Leed and kumu hulu Iwalani Walsh Tseu gave several impromptu performances around Hilo during the 2023 Merrie Monarch Festival. (Screenshot of KITV video)

During the recent Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, legendary musician Melveen Leed and kumu hula Iwalani Walsh Tseu were at a craft fair at the Prince Kūhiō Plaza giving an impromptu performance when the general manager asked them via a vendor to stop performing because of “safety concerns.”

Leed and Tseu left in tears and many of the crowd of onlookers were dismayed. The incident has led to outrage by some in the community.

Today, State Sen. Kurt Fevella called for the immediate firing of the general manager, Daniel Kea, in a letter to Brookfield Properties, which operates the shopping center on leased land under the jurisdiction of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The letter (see below) also was sent to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Hawaiian Homes Commission.

“Mr. Kea’s actions do not reflect the spirit of aloha, respect or reverence, exemplified by the namesake of the building he works in, Prince Kūhiō,” Fevella wrote. “Since Mr. Kea does not represent the values of the community he works in or the company he works for, the community is calling for the immediate dismissal of Mr. Kea from his position at the Prince Kuhio Plaza.”


(Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole was a prince of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi until it was overthrown by a coalition of American and European businessmen in 1893. He was often called the Prince of the People for his efforts to preserve and strengthen the Hawaiian people).

But while Kea said on Tuesday he wished things were handled a little better, he said he never wanted to disrespect the two “Hawaiian icons.”

“I would have loved to have seen Malveen sing and Iwalani dance, but only in a safe manner,” Kea said. “My number one job is safety in the mall. I had to shut it down. They were drawing a crowd that was blocking the walkways and blocking the exits, making it hard for people to get out. I did not have security guards available They were handling other permitted events in the mall.”

Favella wrote in the letter that confirmation was received from “revered kupuna” Leed and Tseu that Kea asked them to stop performing during a pop up craft fair gathering at the Prince Kūhiō Plaza during the recent Merry Monarch festivities.

Legendary singer Melveen Leed and kumu hulu Iwalani Walsh Tseu gave several impromptu performances around Hilo during the 2023 Merrie Monarch Festival. (Screenshot of KITV video)

In a video shown on KITV, Tseu said Leed “was so happy people were excited to see her. But we didn’t want to make an pilikia (cause trouble) [when they were asked to stop performing]. We just said: ‘Okay.’ Took a deep breath. and we were walking out and we both had tears in our eyes, looking at each other. Wow, this never happened to us before. I’m 73 and Melveen will be 80. It’s hard for me to fathom that something like this could happen. I just pray to god it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Kea, who has been the general manager for eight years, said he didn’t realize at the time they were so upset and has wanted to apologize. “It was just unfortunate,” he said.

The letter said: “It is very common throughout our state in the kanikapila style of Hawaiian music and hula performances that impromptu jam sessions take place to share the spirit of Aloha with both kamaʻaina and visitors.”

Kea said he had waited until after the duo finished their first song before asking the pop-up vendor (where the duo was singing and dancing) to tell them they had to stop performing.


“But unfortunately there was some confusion and the vendor interrupted them in the middle of their second song,” Kea said. “I would never have asked them to stop during a song. That was bad on us. … But it’s unfortunate it gone blown up on social media.”

And Kea said contrary to a TV report, he never kicked them off the property.

In the letter, Fevella provided the link to a Facebook post by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Cultural Ambassador and attache to the CEO at Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, that expressed shock and indignation about the action taken against the Hawaiian entertainers.

According to the letter, Brookfield’s Managing Partner, Brian Kingston, said: “Our goal is to create vibrant and valued environments for the people who work and live there every day.” 

Letter to Brookfield Properties.dhhl.Prince Kuhio Plaza by Tiffany De Masters on Scribd

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