Hulihia! Your Vote Can Make Change HappenMil

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

Over the past six months, OHA achieved a level of positive visibility with the public in Hawaiʻi that we must build on.

The hard work of the team assembled by Kuilei Consulting touched the community, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, in multiple ways on multiple platforms. In the face of a concerted campaign of misinformation, OHA’s town halls, digital and TV ads, OpEds and letters to the editor from multiple people cut through.

The animus towards Hawaiians and the unjust denial of their right to do what OHA needs to do for the betterment of beneficiaries and other local people was made abundantly clear in the fight to bring much needed residential housing to Hakuone. We lost the battle to get OHA’s bill passed this year – but we won in the court of public opinion. Some of our elected leaders will face a reckoning.

Weeks after the end of a legislative session – widely panned as seriously dysfunctional – people are still asking questions about the disrespect for Hawaiian rights and the flagrant subverting of the democratic process.

Polling shows that most voters want justice for Hawaiians. Most voters want the rights of Hawaiians that are enshrined in the Hawaiʻi State Constitution to be honored. They saw those rights violated shamefully in the denial of a hearing in the House for OHA’s bill to allow residential housing on some of the parcels of land it owns in Kakaʻako.

The disconnect between what people want and expect – and the actions of our elected leaders – was made very clear this past legislative session.

Hawaiians have a choice: to continue to refrain from participating, as many do, in the electoral process; or to use the full power of their ballot to remove from office those who put serving special interests over the needs of their constituents.

I understand the disdain Hawaiian sovereignty activists have had for validating the illegal takeover of the Kingdom by participating in the politics of the state. But it’s time to get real. The people who are in power, many of them driven by what scholars have dubbed “settler colonialism,” are wielding that power in ways that further erode our rights.

The non-participation of Hawaiian voters is just fine by them. It means they can count on being re-elected year after year by the same small percentage of urban voters who like the status quo and profit from it.

It’s time for hulihia – an overturning of the status quo. That can only happen if we all take civic engagement seriously. If we all speak out every time we see, hear, or get wind of political actions that undermine our interests. As more voices are raised, the greater chance there is that we will be heard.

Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If we stay silent in the face of injustice and continued violation of our rights, people of ill-will will fill that vacuum with their misleading noise.

Be vigilant. Share your understanding of what transpired this past legislative session with those who may not have been as attentive as you. Point them to the website www.hakuone.com. Encourage them to sign the petition that calls on lawmakers to fulfil the spirit and letter of Act 15 that conveyed public trust lands to OHA in settlement of a long overdue debt. That so-called “settlement” had so many strings attached it tied OHA up in knots.

It’s time to unravel those knots so that Hakuone can become an engine of economic development and cultural pride. Hawaiian voters hold the future in their hands. Vote!