MAUNAWILI, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Critics voiced their displeasure as the Native Hawaiian convention on self-governance kicked off in Maunawili on Monday.
Molokai activist Walter Ritte signed up to run in the Na'i Aupuni election, but later dropped out. He was turned away at the entrance to the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club even though he said he just wanted to observe the proceedings.
Organizers told Ritte to return on Tuesday, after the participants had a chance to discuss whether to allow non-participants into the convention.
"It was such a bad situation. How can you build a Hawaiian nation by dividing us like this right from the get-go and keeping the Hawaiians out so they cannot see what's going on?" said Ritte.
Organizers canceled the Na'i Aupuni election late last year due to a legal challenge. The convention is restricted to the 151 candidates who confirmed their participation weeks ago. One of the first steps will be settling on a process that will be used to move forward with the discussion.
"We can't have everyone in there just yelling and screaming at each other so determining and coming up with the process that we're going to use to keep order so that we can have lively debate. That's why we're here to hear all the different opinions," said participant Brendon Lee.
Police kept an eye on several protestors who stood along the road leading to the golf club.
"This is a total farce. This is totally a campaign to push federal recognition. It has a pre-determined outcome. It's funded by OHA (Office of Hawaiian Affairs). OHA is playing a divisive role in the Hawaiian community right now," said protestor Healani Sonoda-Pale.
Participants attending the four-week convention are still hopeful that they can come together to form a plan for the future of Native Hawaiians.
"For me it's a great opportunity to just be at the table, to be a part of the discussion to kind of represent the voices of the younger generation who aren't present and just to learn as much as I can," said participant Jacob Bryan Aki.