Subpoena issued to learn how OHA is helping protesters
The state Attorney General’s Office has slapped a subpoena on the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs demanding detailed information about support provided to the TMT opponents.
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HILO >> The state Attorney General’s Office has slapped a subpoena on the state
Office of Hawaiian Affairs
demanding detailed information about support that OHA has provided to the Thirty Meter Telescope opponents who are blocking Mauna Kea Access Road, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has learned.
The OHA board of trustees in July unanimously
approved a resolution
authorizing OHA staff to
advocate for the protesters and to do “assessment and provision of health, safety and legal needs” for the activists.
OHA trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among the 38 demonstrators who were arrested July 17, and OHA Chairwoman Colette Machado has visited the site of the protest several times. The trustees visited the Mauna Kea protest site as a group Thursday during a trip to Hawaii island.
OHA Board of Trustees Chairwoman Colette Y. Machado on Thursday refused to say what sort of assistance OHA provided or how much that support cost, but a source said OHA has supported the work of lawyers who are representing protesters who were arrested during the Mauna Kea demonstrations.
The activists have so far declined to identify the source of funding for amenities including dozens of portable toilets at the Puu Huluhulu protest camp at the base of the access road, but during testimony in Hilo on Thursday, the TMT opponents publicly thanked the trustees for their help.
“We really do appreciate what we have received, and hope that you will continue to do that into the next fiscal year, assuming we’re still going to be there standing on that mauna,” said protest leader and Hawaiian elder Noe Noe Wong-Wilson.
The TMT opponents have now been blocking the access road for more than two months. The protesters consider the TMT project to be a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider sacred, and say they will not allow the project to be built.
TMT spent a decade obtaining state and county approvals and fending off legal challenges to the $1.4 billion telescope project, and supporters say the development now has the legal right to proceed.
Gov. David Ige has pledged to reopen the access road so that construction can begin on the telescope, and any logistical or other support OHA provides to the protesters clearly works counter to Ige’s goal.
Although OHA is a state entity, the elected OHA trustees have their own take on issues surrounding Mauna Kea. OHA sued the state and the university in 2017 over alleged mismanagement of Mauna Kea, citing a 1998 state audit and three follow-up audits that found problems with state management of the natural and cultural resources on the mountain.
According to a statement issued Thursday by an OHA spokesman, “OHA has been subpoenaed by the state Attorney General’s office to provide documents related to OHA’s efforts to ensure the safety and welfare of its beneficiaries on Mauna Kea.”
“OHA is inclined to cooperate if it determines that the scope and purpose of the requests as well as the process to be followed are legitimate,” the statement said. The trustees are scheduled to receive a report Thursday on the expenditures made in connection with the Mauna Kea protests.
Krishna F. Jayaram, special assistant to Attorney General Clare Connors, declined Wednesday to release a copy of the demand for information from OHA, saying in a written statement that “to the extent this relates to an inquiry from our office, we wouldn’t be able to share the (documents) as it would impact the effectiveness of the inquiry.”
Kamehameha Schools has acknowledged it is also providing help to the demonstrators camped at the bottom of the access road, including providing a large tent and support for documentation of the protests through livestreams, photos and videos.