Decision on rules postponed as TMT foes rally on Oahu

  • A group of University of Hawaii at Manoa students gathered on campus for an “educational flash mob” to oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope project atop Maunakea earlier this year. (DIANE S. W. LEE / DLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM)

HONOLULU — For the second month in a row, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents has postponed decision-making on a new draft of rules governing public and commercial activities on Maunakea.

The controversial rules, originally scheduled to be taken up by the board in July, are now scheduled for a special meeting Nov. 6 on the UH-West Oahu campus.

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The postponement allows the board additional time to consider feedback on the proposed rules as a regent committee — more formerly known as the Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group — reviews the university’s activities on the mountain, according to a news release.

Meanwhile, on the Manoa campus Monday, scores of anti-Thirty Meter Telescope kiai, or “protectors, ” conducted a ceremony after a morning of sign-waving and honoring the kupuna who were arrested on the mountain July 17.

On the first day of classes, the demonstrators lined Dole Street and University Avenue and set up bamboo easels with the names of the 38 people who were arrested blocking Maunakea Access Road.

UH-Manoa ethnic studies professor Davianna McGregor said protocol honoring the mountain would be held on campus each day at noon.

“This a great place because it brings the presence of the mauna to the decision-makers, to the Board of Regents and President David Lassner, who have to make that decision to end the sublease and to allow that telescope to leave Hawaii and honor our Mauna a Wakea, ” McGregor told the crowd.

Some students were planning a sit-in at Bachman Hall.

On the mountain, about 150 people gathered Monday at the base of the Maunakea Access Road for the midday protocol including prayers, chants and hula, which was about the same turnout as a week earlier. Participation in the protests tends to surge on weekends but drop on weekdays as activists go to work, school or tend to other commitments.

The protesters Monday released video of several vehicles that were refused passage up the closed access road, including Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries who said they were trying to reach the summit area for hunting or for religious or cultural reasons.

Those vehicles, along with some senior activists who tried to hike up the road to the summit, were turned away by state Department of Land and Natural Resources officers early Monday, but vehicles from the Gemini and Subaru observatories were allowed up the access road.

Activists questioned DLNR’s authority to restrict traffic on the road, which was built on Hawaiian Home Lands but never formally transferred into the state or county highway systems.

As for the Maunakea administrative rules, the university says they aim to provide for the proper use, management and protection of cultural, natural and scientific resources of UH management areas.

But some people who have testified against the rules say they marginalize Hawaiian practitioners, justify using force against Hawaiians and are written to facilitate the building of the TMT.

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University officials say the rules don’t limit Hawaiian culture and are needed regardless of whether the telescope is ever built on the mountain.

Star-Advertiser staff writer Kevin Dayton contributed to this story.

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