HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka believes Mauna Kea is sacred. He also believes the Thirty Meter Telescope should be built on it.
In his new memoir, "One Voice: My Life, Times and Hopes for Hawaii," the 93-year-old expresses his support for the controversial project.
"When it comes to a place like TMT, in a way it relates to the moving of Hawaiians to find Hawaii," said Akaka in an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Besides jobs and educational opportunities, Akaka believes TMT will help Native Hawaiians reconnect with their culture and past by expanding knowledge of the stars and universe.
"It's part of their culture to search and look for new places," he said.
After years of legal wrangling, the state Land Board has approved a permit for TMT, though the issue is likely to head to the state Supreme Court.
Native Hawaiian groups suing to block the project believe only practitioners of the mountain have legal standing. They've criticized Gov. David Ige for a lack of leadership, but Akaka isn't one of them.
"I wouldn't say he wasn't strong enough. I would say he's being careful and caring about the feeling of the people of Hawaii," Akaka said.
Meanwhile, in his book, Akaka says that he considers the 1993 Apology Bill, in which the U.S. apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, as one of his greatest pieces of legislation.
And even though his so-called Akaka Bill, giving Native Hawaiians federal recognition, never passed, the former senator says the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission is now the best path forward.
"We really need to legally get on the laws of the United States," said Akaka.
Five years into retirement, Akaka still maintains his trademark style of politics.
"The world really needs aloha because aloha is a power that brings people together," he said.