Hawaii News — Dueling PR; A Botched Mediation Effort

  By Alan McNarie

One entity that stands to lose a great deal if the TMT is not built is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which is supposed to be getting a cut of revenues from ceded lands. So far, the University of Hawaii has stymied that mandate by leasing the land atop Mauna Kea for a dollar a year, and then signing similar dollar subleases with the various telescope consortia. But the TMT’s backers have, for the first time, agreed to pay rent: a million a year when the telescope is operational, of which 20 percent will go to OHA. So it was in OHA’s best interest, after the summit protests erupted, to offer its services as a mediator to both sides.  

The only problem, according to the telescope’s opponents, was that they OHA announced that  it had set up a meeting before it informed them of the fact.

“We are glad that the Mauna Kea ?Ohana will participate in the discussions to convey their own positions and perspectives. With the different parties coming together in shared conversation, we believe this will bring greater understanding for everyone—an important first step in efforts aimed at finding resolution,” wrote OHA Chairperson Robert K. Lindsey Jr. in a press release announcing the meeting, which was supposed to have taken place on April 24.

But instead of participation from the anti-telescope coalition, which calls itself the Mauna Kea Hui, OHA got a competing press release that seemed to leave the two sides further apart than ever.

“To be clear, the Mauna Kea Hui was not invited to this meeting until only yesterday and only after OHA had released its Press Statement claiming we would be in attendance. So we have produced this statement in response,” began the counter press release. What followed was a four point manifesto demanding not only that the TMT be cancelled, but that all of the current telescopes on Mauna Kea  be required to” pay fair market lease rent now and until the end of the general lease in 203” that all telescopes must be decommissioned by the end of the university’s current lease on the mountaintop and that the entire mountaintop would undergo a “complete clean-up and restoration of the Mauna to its original state and condition” and  that “There shall be no rocks, soils or other materials displaced or removed from the Mauna.”  The group did say it would “consider working with State Official[sic]” on some issues “to help find solutions for: the protection of Mauna Kea waters and aquifers, clean-up, and restoration of the Mauna, to insure the ‘right-holders’ (those who the laws are written to protect such as Native Hawaiians and the General Public) have a seat at the table of decision making and lastly we are committed to help to ensure educational opportunities and funds for all the children of Hawai`i are upheld and protected.”

“OHA…Our beloved Mauna Kea is NOT for sale!” the document ends.

But if OHA didn’t inform the Hui before calling its attempted mediation meeting, the Hui apparently didn’t tell all of its members before putting their names on its press release. At least one of the alleged signatories at the bottom of the document told the Chronicle that the hui had not asked her before putting her name on the document and that she did not agree with all of the positions stated, including the call for the complete cessation of astronomy on the mountain.

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