MAUNAKEA — Three trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs met with protesters at Maunakea Access Road Thursday in support of their opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Colette Machado, Dan Ahuna and Carmen Lindsey — trustees respectively representing Molokai and Lanai, Kauai and Niihau, and Maui — visited the kupuna, or elders, camped at the base of Maunakea Access Road for nearly two hours.
After an emotional welcome by the kupuna, Machado addressed the protesters, saying that OHA is seeking to support the Hawaiian community in ways the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has not been able to, such as restoring access to Maunakea summit for all cultural practitioners, instead of the single vehicle currently permitted by law enforcement.
“Don’t give up on OHA,” Machado said. “Allow us to do what we can. We have some limitations, we have no powers…except our commitment which is to serve our people. Outside of that we have no authority to govern anything else, but your voices are being heard.”
Machado later explained that OHA is inherently limited in the degree of support it can provide, as it is a state agency that only receives about $3.5 million a year.
Ahuna urged the protesters — who call themselves kia‘i, or protectors, of Maunakea, which they consider sacred — to remain strong.
“Aloha will always win!” Ahuna said. “Aloha is exposing the truth!”
Machado and Ahuna were two trustees who, along with Chief Operating Officer Sylvia Hussey, denounced the state’s handling of the destruction of an unpermitted structure at the protest site two weeks before. The three had also visited the site back in July.
Machado did not comment on the six other trustees’ absence Thursday, but said she is “hopeful that the next time we’ll be more unified.”
OHA Public Relations Officer Sterling Wong also addressed the kupuna, saying that the agency’s lawsuit against the state for mismanagement on Maunakea, which was filed in 2017, is still pending.
Wong also delivered an official OHA statement announcing that the agency has been subpoenaed by the State Attorney General’s office to provide documents related to OHA’s efforts to insure the safety and welfare of its beneficiaries on Maunakea.
“OHA is inclined to cooperate if it determines that the scope and purpose of the requests as well as the process to be followed are legitimate,” Wong’s statement read.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.