Meet the new third party

  • Pua Ishibashi, co-founder of the Aloha Aina Party, flanked by supporters. (Mike Brestovansky/Tribune-Herald)

  • Mike Brestovansky/Tribune-Herald Pua Ishibashi announces the creation of the Aloha Aina Party in Wailoa Park Friday.

A newly formed political party, the Aloha Aina Party, hopes to run candidates in every election statewide on a platform of Hawaiian sovereignty and cultural values.

Pua Ishibashi, co-founder of the Aloha Aina Party, announced the creation of the party at the King Kamehameha statue in Wailoa Park Friday and declared the party’s intentions to represent Hawaiian issues that have gone unaddressed by other political parties.

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“Current surveys here and nationwide show that more than 70% of people are not satisfied with their current political parties, their political candidates,” Ishibashi said, citing complaints of “widespread corruption” in the major political parties and a lack of genuine community input. “Enter the Aloha Aina Party.”

The party is founded on five core principals, Ishibashi said: recognition of the divine and the right for people to worship as they believe; the need to aloha the people; to malama ‘aina, or care for the land; the need for government transparency and accountability, and to advocate for ho‘oponopono, or a redress of grievances stemming from the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The party’s website goes into further detail about its platform, emphasizing the need to improve wages, health care, education, environmental sustainability and more throughout the state.

This is not the first time Ishibashi and fellow co-founders Desmond Haumea and Don Kauliahave attempted to form a new party. Their first attempt was in 2016, but they failed to obtain the 757 signatures necessary for recognition by the state Office of Elections.

They tried again in 2018, but Ishibashi admitted their efforts were “half-hearted,” as they were still dejected by their failure in 2016. However, they tried a third time in 2019 and were able to receive more than 1,600 signatures, allowing them to be formally recognized.

“A lot of the feedback we got in 2016 was from people who said they didn’t vote, and they don’t want to get involved,” Ishibashi said. “But in 2019, people started saying the exact opposite.”

The greater support for a Native Hawaiian political party — Ishibashi said the Aloha Aina Party is the first Native Hawaiian political party in the state for 107 years — in 2019 likely stems in part to the backlash against the planned construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, which is considered by some to be sacred. Accordingly, Ishibashi said the party is opposed to the construction of TMT and advocates for the timely decommissioning of all other facilities on Maunakea’s summit.

Although the party has a strong focus on Native Hawaiian issues — all three founders are members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha — Ishibashi emphasized that the party remains open to everybody who shares its views, and encouraged people to not vote based on party, race or nationality, but by whether a candidate truly represents one’s values.

To that end, Ishibashi said the Aloha Aina Party intends to offer political candidates in every level of this year’s elections, although he added that none have yet been declared. If no candidate can be found for certain races, Ishibashi said the party may choose to endorse another candidate.

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The Aloha Aina Party is the fifth political party to be recognized by the Office of Elections for the 2020 elections. It will be joined on the ballot by the Democratic and Republican parties of Hawaii, the Libertarian Party of Hawaii, and the Green Party of Hawaii.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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