HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "The silence is deafening."
That's how OHA Trustee Peter Apo describes the lack of vocal support from the Native Hawaiian community and political leaders for the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope.
He says despite the protests and legal battles, there's a silent majority of support for building the telescope atop Mauna Kea.
"I think it's important to the legacy, to the identity to who we are as Hawaiians. The legacy of the search for knowledge," he said, of the telescope. "To not pursue that, to not have it happen in our homeland is crazy. Frankly, I think that's the cultural injury."
He believes ancient Hawaiians would have welcomed the telescope.
"If they were given the opportunity for a tool, a technology like the TMT, they would build a temple on top of the mountain and put the TMT on top of the heiau," he said.
When asked if his Hawaiian values have been questioned because of his opinions, Apo says he's been called a "traitor" and "guilty of treason."
He's not the only prominent Native Hawaiian backing the project.
One of Hokulea's master navigators, Kalepa Baybayan, has also supported it.
"It's pretty lonely, yet you have to be pretty brave to take a stand for something that polarizes the community," he said.
He added, "The education benefits that it will bring the community is a very generous offering on the part of TMT."
"I just don't want to presume what our kupuna would have done, but what I do know is I don't think anyone would want to support desecration," said Kealoha Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou. "Desecration is not education. We are trying to protect the practitioners who do practice on Mauna Kea. That's what we are doing."
While OHA has threatened to sue the state and U.H. over what it calls mismanagement, OHA Trustee, Dan Ahuna, stressed that OHA's stance on TMT is neutral.
"There are numerous issues all having to do with mismanagement not any single telescope so we need to be clear about that. It's about management. Mauna Kea is a sacred place and deserves more from our agencies," he said.