(BIVN) – Ongoing discussions between opponents and supporters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project planned for Maunakea were publicly discussed last week, during a University of California Board of Regents meeting held via online videoconference.
In an attempt to move the project forward, TMT International Observatory board chair Henry Yang explained how he personally has made “countless red-eye trips to Hawaiʻi to meet with, to listen to, and to learn from the community, especially the native Hawaiian community.”
“I have shared breath with them with my respect and aloha,” Yang said.
“The TMT simply cannot and will not be built on Maunakea,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, a TMT opponent who participated in the videoconference. “We will use all peaceful means, we will use all legal means, and if necessary we will lay our bodies down to stop this project.”
Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson set the record straight on talk of hoʻopononpono, a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Wong-Wilson explained that she has been part of a group that met with businessmen from Hawaiʻi, TMT International Observatory, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy since January 2020. “We stated at the beginning that we were willing to meet face to face with each other,” Wong-Wilson said, “but this was in no way to be construed as hoʻoponopono. Hoʻoponopono is a very high level Hawaiian cultural process which requires ceremony, self-reflection, and a desire by all parties to return to a former state of pono. It is primarily used for healing in families and familial relations and often takes years to accomplish. This effort to communicate face to face cannot be considered hoʻoponopono.”
“The fundamental thing that you must understand about hoʻoponopono is that it is based in pono,” said Laulani Teale of the Hoʻopae Pono Peace Project. “I sincerely urge you to hold an immediate vote and divest completely from the TMT project on Maunakea. I need to be really clear about this – in the spirit of truth – that if you go forward, you are committing genocide,” Teale said. “That’s a harsh word, I know.”
TMT supporter and graduate student of astronomy Mailani Neal, who also participated in the videoconference, said she has “received threats of violence to my physical well-being,” for her support of the project, “so it can be a bit intimidating,” she said. “I’ve been alienated by people here that I’ve known my entire life,” for her support of the project on Maunakea.
“We do have a native Hawaiian-led group, Imua TMT,” Neal said, “and we have tried to open the pathways for dialogue. But we by no means want to be forceful, of course. That’s not going to be useful.”
“I do think that this has been a wonderful opportunity for all of us to hear each other out” Neal told the UC Regents, “and so I thank you all for this opportunity.”
“I had some extensive conversations with a variety of folks prior to this meeting,” said UC Regents Chair John Perez, “including with many of the kūpuna who were arrested last year, including Dr. Noe Noe Wong-Wilson. And it was an incredibly moving and impactful conversation,” he said, “that impacts my view of these questions.”
No action was taken during the meeting, however Regents suggested a future agenda item may call for a vote that could determine the future level of University of California involvement in the stalled project.
This is part three of a three-part video series. Part one focused on the TMT proposal to the National Science Foundation to help bolster the project. Part two compared the Thirty Meter Telescope’s preferred site on Mauna Kea to the alternative site in La Palma.