MAUNA KEA >> State Sens. Kai Kahele and Kurt Fevella both made formal offerings to show their respect for the kupuna or elderly protesters on Mauna Kea today, and both said the Thirty Meter Telescope should give up on the effort to build on the mountain.
Kahele, who is Hawaiian and chairman of the Senate Water and Land Committee, brought his wife and three daughters to the blocked Mauna Kea Access Road to present an offering from his Milolii family to the kupuna.
He made his offering in front of about 250 protesters gathered for midday protocol on the Mauna Kea Access Road. Anti-TMT activists have been blocking the road for more than three weeks to prevent construction equipment from reaching the summit area to begin site work for TMT.
“Spain is ready to welcome the Thirty Meter Telescope with open arms, and if you can not solve this situation here, nothing is worth destroying the very social fabric of our community and that aloha spirit that exists in all of us,” Kahele said. “There’s no project, there’s nothing worth putting that at risk.”
Fevella, the lone Republican in the Hawaii state Senate, said he came to Mauna Kea over the weekend to see family members who have joined in the protest, and stayed to honor the kupuna. He is also Hawaiian.
“Staying at home and watching it on TV and listening to people talk about ‘em, you ain’t going to feel ‘em,” Fevella said. “Being here in the presence of all of this just brought me to tears. I just want to show the respect to my family, to my ancestors, my parents, my grandparents.”
“This is a one time in a lifetime experience, and people should come and learn,” he said. “They should come and learn because it’s not all about the telescope. It’s about everything about being a Hawaiian. I think that’s where people missing the whole point.”
As many as 3,000 people at a time have gathered to join in the protests on Mauna Kea against the $1.4 billion telescope. TMT opponents consider the project to be a desecration of mountain that some Hawaiians believe to be sacred.
A spokesman for TMT said that “Maunakea continues to be our preferred choice for TMT and we remain hopeful that we can find a way forward, with mutual respect.”