MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries say the state acted illegally by allowing the building of the Mauna Kea access road, which they allege is theft of Hawaiian Home Lands.
“The road that we are standing on right now is Hawaiian Home Lands. It was taken in 1968 by the University of Hawaii. And they took it by building this road on it.” said lessee Halealoha Ayau, at the protesters camp at the base of Mauna Kea. “They did so without authorization of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.”
Ayau and others allege that was an illegal act.
“This is stolen because when you appropriate the property of another without authorization, without paying for it, that is theft. Even when it’s done by the State of Hawaii, by state agencies, supported by the Department of the Attorney General,” said Ayau.
Ayau and others said they wrote a letter to officials, including Attorney General Clare Connors, that the state has, in Ayau’s words, “60 days to comply with our demand for compliance with the unlawful taking of the road that we are standing on.”
The threat of legal action comes a day after the DHHL decided to remove an unpermitted wooden structure that opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope say was going to be a library and educational center for children at their protest site.
The move inflamed tensions after a Hawaii flag was cut so that crews could enter the structure.
A TMT spokesman said Mauna Kea is still the preferred site for the telescope. However, they are waiting until they hear from Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, who has been negotiating with Native Hawaiian groups, before they make any decisions.
Some of the beneficiaries said they question the intent of the DHHL.
“I do not understand how the leadership within the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission and agency would even consider supporting the TMT Corporation in their hope of building a large telescope,” said Kaleikoa Kaeo.
Exclusive loyalty means you can only act in the interest of beneficiaries," said Akau. “But how can the commission act in the interest of beneficiaries if you don’t even ask them what they think?”