Kauai's 'Silent Majority' Weighs In on Superferry Controversy

Ruth Garza
Ruth Garza
Mike Kiyabu
Mike Kiyabu
Ramon Kauhi Garza
Ramon Kauhi Garza

LIHUE, Kauai (KHNL) -- The Alakai is still stuck in legal waters, even after Governor Linda Lingle signed a bill that allows the ferry to sail during the environmental review process.

Wednesday, Maui Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza scheduled a hearing November 14, to decide whether or not to remove an injunction that has barred the ship from returning to Kahului Harbor.

Superferry lawyers said the new law allows the injunction to be lifted, while Isaac Hall, the lawyer representing three Maui environmental groups, said it's unconstitutional.

As the Superferry's fate on Maui is, once again, tangled in a courtroom, folks on Kauai remain divided.

Protestors have promised at least several hundred in the water, and some have even threatened bloodshed if the ship returns to Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor before the completion of an environmental impact statement.

Some Kauai locals said the protestors don't speak for everyone. They say they want a ferry service, and they're sick of a vocal -- and sometimes violent -- minority speaking on their behalf.

Images of protestors hitting cars and letting air out of tires have branded Kauai as anti-Superferry. Protestors in the water and on land making it very clear, the Alakai is not welcome. They have said they're the voice for the people of Kauai, but many disagree.

"They're not speaking for us," said Ruth Garza, a long-time Kauai resident. "We don't act like that for one thing. When you hold a sign that says 'Sink the Ferry,' is that like hate speech? You're actually wishing terrible things on people, and we don't think like that."

"The protestors have every legal right to legally protest," said Mike Kiyabu, another long-time Kauai resident. "What they don't have a right to is touch or damage other people's car. That goes beyond legal protest. That is bordering, I feel, terrorism because when you terrorize someone in their vehicle, and that person should pay."

Some on Kauai claim many of the protestors -- like the ones who booed and jeered Governor Lingle --- are recent mainland transplants, and don't represent them or other locals.

"Unfortunately it reflected Kauai, the people of Kauai," said Ramon Kauhi Garza, a long-time Kauai resident. "Not the ones who call themselves Kauaians. There's no such thing as Kauaians, but the people of Kauai."

"They came over here and saw what a beautiful island it was, and they bought homes and they started living here, and became part of the ohana," said Kiyabu. "We never did protest any of them. We didn't refuse to accept them and when Honolulu people want to use the ferry to come here, they say, 'We don't want you to come to our island.' It's not their island. It's everybody's island."

They say the actions of a small group have harmed the entire island.

"There are many people who have generations and generations who have lived here, who've been scarred by this," said Ramon Kauhi Garza. "We've been scarred by this."

They also wonder why the focus is solely on the Alakai.

"If you make an EIS (environmental impact statement) for the Superferry, then I feel everyone -- Young Brothers, Matson, Norwegian Cruise Line -- all these ships should be subjected to the same policy," said Kiyabu.

Some tout the potential economic benefit the Superferry could bring to Kauai.

"The protestors need to realize that progress happens and it is coming," said Lori Balisacan, another long-time Kauai resident. "So whether you accept it with an open mind, or you have your opinions and that's all you want to believe, that's fine."

These folks say they respect a person's right to protest, but they hope it's done peacefully.

"If you are going to protest against something, then do it right. Do it with aloha," said Ramon Kauhi Garza. "You can still do it with aloha and get your message across."

A solid majority -- about 70 to 80 percent -- supports the Superferry in various polls as well as in written testimony submitted to Hawaii lawmakers.