The doors were locked and the lights were off at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) Kulana Oiwi offices last Wednesday, but that didn’t stop over 100 picketers from rallying outside their doors and waving signs on the street.
In the latest event organized by the Save La`au `Ohana, La`au Point development resisters gathered at daybreak Sep. 26 to demand a response from the organizations they feel have betrayed the Hawaiian people. “They’re supposed to be helping us guys,” said homesteader Yama Kahaloa`a. “They’re supposed to be supporting the Hawaiians, but they’re supporting the Ranch.
“If people cannot reach their institutions then all our generations, all our posterity is at risk.”
The OHA trustees passed a unanimous resolution in support of the Ranch’s Community Based Master Plan more than a year ago. DHHL has not taken an official position on the Master Plan, but Molokai DHHL commissioner Milton Pa has spoken in support of the plan and appeared in an MPL video promoting the master plan.
Pa, along with Collette Machado were the primary targets of protestors, who weren’t shy about naming names. “Milton Pa: Selling our water, Colette Machado: Selling our culture” read one hand-painted sign. Many variations of the theme could be seen lining the highway at the peak of the protests around 7:30 a.m.
Machado, an OHA trustee, was part of the Land Trust Committee who approved the Plan and president of the Land Trust Board that will govern the community land trust – some 26,000 acres placed in conservation plus other easements – if the Master Plan goes through. Machado is also part of the EC board that helped engineer the Master Plan alongside MPL.
After the protests Machado released a statement to the Maui News in defense of her support of the Master Plan, which she believes has the support of many residents. “I believe this is a reasonable and balanced plan that reflects the values of the majority of the Molokai community,” Machado said.
She called the plan “fair, reasonable and right” and explained that “Molokai will remain rural, and its unique lifestyle will be preserved.”
While activist leader Walter Ritte has in the past accused Machado of duping the OHA trustees into voting for the resolution. Machado denies this completely. “The meeting was public and right here on Molokai,” she said when questioned about the matter earlier this year. “I resent Walter for portraying me as someone who goes backdoor. I would never put my trustees up to something like that.”
The homestead associations on Molokai plan to intervene in the “quasi-judicial” meetings of the State Land Use commission who will ultimately determine whether La`au Point will be rezoned for development. MPL CEO Peter Nicholas has said that “the Plan and anything that its partners propose will continue to support Hawaiian preference rights for water.”
According to Ritte, the conflict has reached a point where it is up to the people to hold their leaders accountable for working with developers. “The people will get what they deserve,” said Ritte. “The longer they hide, the more they lock the doors…the louder we will have to speak.”
According to an OHA spokesperson the office was closed Wednesday morning because staff members were attending a workshop in Honolulu, not because they were hiding from protestors.
At a brief meeting following Wednesday’s protests, participants discussed strategy for ousting Pa and Machado. “We should ask for their resignation,” said Mililani Hanapi. Ritte said he doubted they would resign on their own and expressed frustration that no current law allows the people to impeach either of them.
“If we can impeach the president, we should be able to impeach these people. There has to be a way for the people to remedy the situation when their leaders stop working for them,” he said.
“If we have to go to the legislature and push a “Collette Machado/Milton Pa Law” then we will. We cannot let them join the developers to the detriment of their Hawaiian constituents.”