Governor’s decision to step back from TMT conflict gets mixed reviews

Updated: Jul. 24, 2019 at 6:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige’s decision to hand over negotiations with protesters on Mauna Kea to Big Island Mayor Harry Kim is getting mixed reviews.

Hawaiian activist and attorney Mililani Trask worries that the talks are set up to fail because Mauna Kea is not under Hawaii County control and the mayor can’t truly speak for the state.

She believes that when talks do fall apart, the governor will call in the National Guard.

“I think it will be a failure and when that occurs, my guess is that the governor will then try use it as his second excuse to bring up heavy weapons," said Trask, who was among those arrested on Mauna Kea last week.

“The governor’s bungling and his inability to address the problems that he’s been unable to resolve in the past has caused him to lose face."

Ken Lawson of the University of Hawaii Law School is a veteran of civil rights protests on the mainland. He agrees that the governor’s strategy is to make protesters look unreasonable.

“In order to save face, Gov. Ige comes in and lets him negotiate, knowing full well that those protectors aren’t going to give up that land ― give up that position ― unless TMT tells them we’re not going to build this telescope,” he said.

“Then Gov. Ige can stand back and say look we tried everything we could and even Mayor Kim ... couldn’t get these people to be reasonable.”

But University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore thinks those theories are far-fetched. He believes Ige is making the right move.

Moore said many on the Big Island trust Kim and that Ige squandered a lot of his goodwill there by arresting elders while allowing the protest to swell.

“I think there is tremendous anger from the protectors of Mauna Kea about how Gov. Ige had handled this so far," he said.

“I think he has been wise to recognize he’s not the right person to negotiate this.”

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