Elections Begin for `Aha Kiole

State advisory committee picks up momentum and some criticism..

The distinguished Vanda Hanakahi presided over last week’s `Aha Kiole meeting where she announced how Molokai residents can become council members to represent their moku.

By Zalina Alvi 

The time has come to begin electing council members to the Molokai Pae Moku of the `Aha Kiole Advisory Committee.

When the council members are chosen, the committee will be able to use their collective `ike, or knowledge, to ensure that our natural resources are taken care of for future generations. `Aha Kiole will do so by representing all the local practitioners in Hawaii in advising the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and related agencies in managing the state’s natural resources using ancient Hawaiian practices.

Vanda Hanakahi, chair of the statewide `Aha Kiole and representative for Molokai, expressed a hope at the July 17 meeting for a united front from her island’s council, so that it may act as an example for the other islands.

For the next few weeks, Hawaiians who are practitioners of fishing, agriculture and land use methodology based on the ahupua`a system or of local cultural arts, have the opportunity to become the leader of their moku through a democratic process.

How it’s organized
Although the committee chair and leaders of each island were previously appointed by the governor, the representatives of each moku on Molokai – which are Pala`au, Kawela, Halawa, Kaluako’i, and Ko’olau – will now be chosen by popular vote during a series of meetings, starting on Aug. 14 with the Pala’au moku. Each of these leaders will then be able to act on behalf of the ahupua`a in their mokus.

In order to be eligible, Molokai residents must complete a nomination form asking for information on geneology, residency, knowledge and leadership criteria.

The right leader should have learned their expertise through their family, know about the spiritual connection between natural resources and native Hawaiian values and practices, must always serve the common good of the community, must be able to adhere to a code of conduct established by the `Aha Kiole council and based on the traditional Hawaiian value system, and must have the ability to communicate with `ike pono.

Forms are available by emailing hanakahi@sandwichisles.net and are due at the meeting on Aug. 14.

While most of the people who attended the July 17 meeting were optimistic about the intentions and future of the `Aha Kiole council, there were some who were concerned about its top-down organization and possible hidden motives.

Caroline and Yama Kaholoa`a Sr., sixth generation Molokai residents, expressed skepticism about the intentions and role of the council in the lives of everyday Molokai homesteaders, in particular.

“This is just another organization coming in to tell us what we can and can’t do,” said Caroline.

During the meeting, Hanakahi assured the crowd that the council will work to represent the interests of all the residents on Molokai through active participation and a democratic election.

“Hawaiian or not, if you live in the community we want you to help,” she said.

Yama, however, also criticized the undemocratic nature of the committee’s formative years, citing the fact that the current island representatives, which include Hanakahi, were appointed by the governor and not by the public. He also expressed concern about the combination of a Western structure and traditional Hawaiian practices and values.

Next steps
Whether you agree with the committee or not, time is running out to put the wheels in motion. The process to form the committee began two years ago, and its sunset date is less than one year away in June 2009.

This past June, DLNR biologist Bill Puleloa was already saying the DLNR was making management decisions without their input. The current timeline requires the `Aha Kiole to submit a report for the next legislative session in early 2009.


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