WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian activist Bumpy Kanahele has walked away from the Hawaiian Constitutional Convention, saying the process is rigged.
Kanahele took part in the program for eight days before he became frustrated with its direction.
"I've always known it was a predetermined outcome. I was trying to change 'em from inside," he said. "I cannot stay with this aha any longer."
Kanahele is one of the better known Hawaiian activists to step down from the convention, or aha. His move underscores the growing tensions between those who want federal recognition and those who want independence. Kanahele believes that organizers of the aha favor recognition because they want to preserve millions of dollars in funding for government programs for Hawaiians.
"Independence is not being properly laid out," he said. But others said Kanahele's approach is not practical. They believe that federal recognition is first needed before Hawaiians can begin talking about independence.
"Certainly, independence is not a viable option," said convention participant Annelle Amaral, a former state lawmaker. "The United Nations is not going to go against the United States and recognize Hawaii. And the United States itself will not allow one of its states to secede from the union."
The tension between the opposing views were apparent during protests on the opening day of he convention. But participants said the dialog has since improved.
"It does feel personal, hence voices get raised and names get called. But I think we're getting better," said Amaral. "I have confidence that we will finish this work and we will come out with a constitution."
Aha participants have until next Friday to approve a constitutional document.
Participants said Kanahele's presence at the convention will be missed.
"Uncle Bumpy with his history and experience brings so much wealth of information," said Keani Rawlins-Fernandez.
After his frustrating experience with the aha, Kanahele said he plans to step up his efforts on behalf of the Nation of Hawaii.
"We're going to re-up the whole citizenship program. We're going to start issuing our ID cards," he said.
For the past two decades, the 61-year-old Kanahele said he's been practicing his own form of independence. At Puuhonua O Waimanalo, more than 90 people now live on the 55-acre village.
"Kingdom guys knock it off already. You really like talk about independence. Show time baby, I'm independent so we're going to organize and do what we need to do as the Nation of Hawaii," he said.