A total of 152 people were named Wednesday as delegates to a February constitutional convention that will discuss Native Hawaiian self-governance.
But at least a couple of candidates were left off the final list issued by Na‘i Aupuni. And others are not happy with the terms of the event.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Rowena Akana said she’s been on vacation over the past week and wasn’t informed about a requirement that she confirm her participation by midnight Tuesday.
“It’s a screwup by whomever they hired,” Akana said.
She added that she plans to try to persuade the nonprofit board to let her participate.
Rosalie Lenchanko, a retired Honolulu Police Department lieutenant from Waimanalo, said she was left off the list even though she talked with a Na‘i Aupuni representative on the phone and confirmed by email as instructed.
Janice Ringler, an OHA employee, was not on the first list released Wednesday, but was added by Na‘i Aupuni after it verified that she sent her acceptance well before the deadline and an electronic carrier delivered it past the due date, according to a news release.
As it stands, 152 delegates agreed to the terms of the convention, or aha, which is scheduled to convene at a meeting hall in Kailua in February.
The number represents 77 percent of the 196 people who originally signed up to be candidates before the election was abruptly canceled by Na‘i Aupuni Dec. 15.
The cancellation came in response to a U.S. Supreme Court injunction blocking the counting of votes while a lawsuit alleging that the racially exclusive process is unconstitutional is argued before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a move to avoid a legal obstacle that could stall the process for years, the Na‘i Aupuni board offered convention seats to all of the candidates, not just the 40 initially planned.
On Monday, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit — including Kelii Akina of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii — filed a motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold Na‘i Aupuni and other agencies in civil contempt. The motion accuses the group of violating the letter and spirit of the injunction.
On Wednesday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a brief on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union supporting the appeal and arguing that these kinds of elections should be declared unconstitutional. The libertarian Cato Institute also joined the brief.
The motion is expected to go to the full Supreme Court for consideration at a future conference.
As for the field of delegates, Na‘i Aupuni President Kuhio Asam said he was excited that a large group representing a broad cross section of the Native Hawaiian community, from Hawaii and the mainland, will have an opportunity to discuss self-governance.
“Our goal has always been to establish a path to an aha where Hawaiians can have a long-overdue discussion on the future of the Hawaiian people,” Asam said in a news release.
“These are Hawaiians who have shown a deep commitment to engage in serious, civil discussions on self-governance. We are very happy and encouraged that so many individuals have made a decision to be participants. They deserve everyone’s support,” he said.
But state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) said a condition of participation for himself and several others is whether they will be able to fit the convention into their schedules. In Ing’s case, the issue is the state Legislature, which is in full swing in February.
“My duties with the Legislature come before anything else,” he said. “If it conflicts with my effectiveness, I will not do it.”
Ing said he and other candidates want Na‘i Aupuni to return some of the promised autonomy regarding scheduling and other logistical concerns back to the delegates.
“Realistically, the way they have it set up now, it will only involve retirees,” he said.
Ing also objected to the Feb. 1 start date, noting that it is an ‘Ole night, which according to the Hawaiian lunar calendar, is not an appropriate time to start a meeting.
But Na‘i Aupuni, in an emailed response to Ing, said it is working under a number of constraints, including the arrangement of transportation and providing of per diem costs for more than 150 delegates.
What’s more, Na‘i Aupuni is arranging to have experts hold presentations, during the first week, on issues such as constitution building; federal Indian law; international law as it pertains to de-occupation; decolonization; and the rights of indigenous people.
Representatives from the Mediation Center of the Pacific are also scheduled to assist the delegates in organizing. Thereafter, whatever happens at the convention will be left to the participants without interference by Na‘i Aupuni or any government entity, Asam said.
The field of delegates
includes a variety of individuals from the Native Hawaiian community, ranging
from college professors,
lawyers, teachers and past and present politicians, to Hawaiian independence warriors such as Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele, Poka Laenui and Lanakila