(BIVN) – The Hawaiian Homes Commission heard about the ongoing dispute over the Thirty Meter Telescope from numerous testifiers on Monday during its meeting at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo.
Hawaiian Homes beneficiaries, many of them active in the Kū Kiaʻi Mauna movement, packed the Crown Room – the same room where the TMT contested case hearing was held three years ago – to voice their concerns to the commission.
Some read from written testimony, like Keoni John Turalde, who said he was arrested on the Mauna Kea Access Road, “not consulted.”
Others, like 19-year-old Mekealohapumehauahemolele Howard of Oahu, sang while playing her ukulele.
“I urged the Hawaiian Homes Commission, especially its chairman, to exercise independence from the state of Hawaiʻi that is focused on the needs of beneficiaries as provided by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act,” stated Howard before she sang her song. “In particular, I urge the Hawaiian Homes Commission, pursuant to the authority of section 206 of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, not to adhere to the position of the governor with regards to his support of TMT.”
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is not directly involved in the TMT issue. However, the area on either side of the Saddle Road where TMT opponents are encamped is largely Hawaiian Home Lands. That includes much of Puʻuhuluhulu, where the puʻuhonua has been established by the kiaʻi, as well as the land traversed by the Mauna Kea Access Road. The jurisdiction over the road itself is the subject of ongoing dispute between the beneficiaries and the state.
38 kūpuna were arrested on the Mauna Kea Access Road back on July 17 as law enforcement attempted to clear a path for TMT construction crew to ascend the mountain.
“According to the Constitution, the powers and duties of the Governor and the Board of Land and Natural Resources in respect to lands of the state shall not extend to lands having the status of Hawaiian Home Lands,” Howard testified. “This also means the governor should not be ordering arrest on Hawaiian Home Lands nor using DLNR DOCARE officers for such arrests. Only the Hawaiian Homes Commission can issue such an order and not the Chairman independently, unless delegated expressly by the Commission. And to my knowledge, the Commission has not issued such an order to arrest or delegate such authority to the chair.”
As of today, it has been 100 days since the state-announced construction start date (July 15) for the Thirty Meter Telescope. The TMT has yet to begin building.