My Turn: Councilwoman correct to question legality ruling in Hawaii

This letter is a response to Ken Obenski’s letter to the editor that was published Saturday Dec. 1.

Obenski’s ethnocentric article has no relevance to Jennifer Ruggles, especially regarding the question he asks her at the end of his rant, “So, Ms. Ruggles, what part of the 19th century do you propose we go back to?”


Jennifer Ruggles has expressed legal concerns as a county council member, regarding violating international law in occupied Hawaiian Kingdom territory. Councilwoman Ruggles is taking a legal position, whereas Mr. Obenski is arguing his historical political opinion that ignores pertinent legal and factual information about the Hawaiian Kingdom as it relates to international law, war crimes, and protected persons. There are simple legal facts that a Ph.D law professor at the University of Hawaii could explain to Ken Obenski that reflect the basis for the position Jennifer Ruggles has taken, rather than Obenski’s biased, opinionated (poorly researched in my opinion) version of Hawaiian history.

Very simply, the Hawaiian Kingdom obtained treaties of sovereignty and neutrality that date back to the 1840s. The Hawaiian Kingdom was internationally recognized as an Independent State due to the brilliant diplomacy of Timoteo Ha’alilio in a meeting with the most powerful people in the world at that time — the European monarchs.

Once a nation is recognized as an independent state, it cannot lose independence unless a treaty of annexation is signed with another annexing nation. The United States did not receive a treaty of annexation from the Hawaiian Kingdom. Instead, the United States Congress passed a municipal law claiming to annex the Hawaiian Kingdom. However, municipal laws only have jurisdiction within the nation where they are passed and cannot be applied outside the borders of the national territory. The U.S cannot pass municipal laws that apply to France or Britain, and other countries cannot pass municipal laws that apply to the U.S. laws and agreements between nations are called treaties, and must adhere to the Rule of International Law. Private citizens and government officials who violate international law can be held liable for war crimes with no statute of limitation.

This fact of law, that it’s a war crime to legislate the laws of the occupying country within the occupied state, was brought to Jen Ruggles’ attention. Legislators in Hawaii can be held liable for war crimes with no statute of limitation. Therefore, she became a whistleblower and upheld her oath of office by following the rule of law, but also intelligently refused to participate in criminal activity once she was made aware of it.

This obviously has nothing to do with going back to the “19th century,” as Obenski claims. It has everything to do with international legal concerns that are relevant to current events.

I suggest everyone do more research and due diligence into these legal facts before they form their opinions. Dr. Keanu Sai has a Ph.D doctoral thesis on this topic and a published textbook called Ua Mau Ke Ea, Sovereignty Endures.


Please do your homework, folks. before expressing public opinions.

Ben Cohn is a resident of Kealakekua.