HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last Friday Hawaii Pacific University student Aarin Jacobs testified in support of a bill to protect sharks and rays. He said committee chair Rep. Faye Hanohano berated him. He said she accused him of trying to take away her food.
"I asked her to clarify and she said that if there was a taro famine and she couldn't eat shark because of the penalties she would face, then she would have to turn to eating people," Jacobs said.
He said he was shocked and stunned. He said Hanohano went on to scold him for violating the shark's home when he swam in the ocean.
"And she goes to contradict herself straight afterwards to say that the people want to swim in the ocean but because of the sharks that are there then they can't swim because the sharks are actually eating people," he said.
Jacobs, a Portland native, said Hanohano continued to criticize him.
"She says, 'Why do all you westerners want to come over here to tell us how to live our lives and what to do?' I was speechless. I actually couldn't believe what was coming out of her mouth," he said.
Jacobs wrote about the encounter on his Facebook page and emailed state House leaders. They are assembling a committee to investigate Hanohano's alleged misconduct.
Some House lawmakers were quick to support the Big Island lawmaker.
"Chair Hanohano has always been passionate about Native Hawaiian issues," Rep. Calvin Say said.
"She is an individual of Native Hawaiian ancestry, and she's very concerned and very frustrated with the lack of progress that she hasn't seen for community," Rep. Richard Fale said.
This isn't Hanohano's first controversy. Last year she apologized for racial remarks made over artwork being hung in her office. She was upset the pieces weren't from Native Hawaiian artists but from "haoles," "japs" and "pakes."
Jacobs has lived on Oahu for four years and is majoring in environmental studies. He said Hanohano's parting shot was an insult.
"She asked me how old I was. I replied I'm 22 years old. And she gave me a, 'Pfft! sit down!'" he said.
Hanohano declined Hawaii News Now's offer to tell her side of the story. Other committee members said no to our request for their observations. But one representative who didn't want to be identified said Jacob's account is practically word-for-word.