Kim preps Maunakea proposal

  • Kaho'okahi Kanuha holds a press conference in response to Mayor Kim's press conference earlier this summer. (Screenshot courtesy a livestream on the Pu'uhonua o Pu'uhuluhulu Maunakea Facebook page)
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Mayor Harry Kim holds a press conference Monday at the Hawaii County Building.

HILO — No police action occurred Monday at the Maunakea Access Road despite fears from Thirty Meter Telescope opponents that a major push from law enforcement is imminent.

Over last weekend, opponents of the TMT project — who have camped on the Maunakea Access Road for nearly 60 days — warned their fellows on social media that, thanks to multiple unnamed sources, they believed police would soon mobilize to remove protesters from the road in order for construction of the telescope to proceed.

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“TMT will be meeting with State and County officials this Sunday to coordinate their attack on peaceful and nonviolent protectors of Maunakea,” read one such warning on Friday.

Demonstrators returned to the access road Sunday in preparation for a confrontation with police on Monday morning, but a police action never materialized.

“Although it ended up being a false alarm, it did show, I think, that our people are very, very prepared, very determined and very disciplined,” said protest leader Kaleikoa Ka‘eo in a video posted to Facebook.

Ka‘eo said the demonstrators remain on high alert, fully expecting police action to come within the next several days.

No major police action has occurred at the protest area since more than 30 Hawaiian elders were arrested in the first week of the standoff, although police and state workers arrived at the scene on Friday to dismantle an unpermitted structure built by demonstrators.

However, Mayor Harry Kim on Monday said he believes that no police escalation will occur until his role as a mediator between the state and the Hawaiian community has been completed.

Having been tasked with finding common ground between TMT opponents and supporters by Gov. David Ige, Kim has held several meetings with Hawaiian community leaders, some in support and some in opposition to the telescope.

Kim said the results of those meetings, as well as his decades of experience with the community, will culminate in a lengthy proposal that will enumerate what the state must change in order to move forward with the TMT project. That proposal, he said, might be completed later this week, and will conclude his work as Ige’s mediator.

Until that proposal is revealed and explored by the state, Kim said there will “absolutely not” be any further police action to clear the access road.

“I guarantee the governor is committed to ensuring that I will be involved in whatever happens up there,” Kim said, explaining that he has not been informed of any such plans for the immediate future.

Meanwhile, TMT protesters have alleged that Ige has personal and direct financial ties to the TMT corporation, which would present a conflict of interest.

According to public records, David and Dawn Ige Enterprises — a domestic partnership established by the governor and his wife in 2015 — employs an agent from Honolulu real estate agency Pacific International Realty. That agency’s president and vice president — Melanie and Charles Long, respectively — also are listed as vice president and president of Private Security Group Inc., a security outfit that was awarded a $3 million contract by TMT in 2014.

Krishna Jayaram, special assistant to the attorney general, said such claims of an ethical violation are baseless.

“Our position is that if you hire a property manager, and that property manager also runs a security company, you are not also tied to that security company,” Jayaram said.

Jayaram said the allegations are attempts to attack Ige’s character and are in line with the demonstrators’ warnings about impending police actions, which use sensationalist terms to raise alarm.

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“They use words intended to draw people to the mountain,” Jayaram said. “But they don’t worry about the sort of people who might be drawn … maybe people who don’t have the same motives as them.”

Jayaram could not comment on whether any actions by police are planned for the near future, citing operational security reasons. However, he echoed previous statements by Ige, saying the standoff cannot continue indefinitely.

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