Na‘i Aupuni bows out of ratification process

  • 3147693_web1_Kihoi-Lei-council-7.jpg
  • 3147693_web1_Native-Hawaiian-Const_Ramo.jpg

The organization that convened a gathering of Native Hawaiians last month to draft a constitution document announced Wednesday that the delegates themselves will be responsible for finding a way to arrange a ratification vote.

ADVERTISING


The organization that convened a gathering of Native Hawaiians last month to draft a constitution document announced Wednesday that the delegates themselves will be responsible for finding a way to arrange a ratification vote.

“The participants have evidenced a remarkable willingness to identify leadership … and respectfully support the voices of many divergent opinions,” Na‘i Aupuni President Kuhio Asam said in a statement. “It is for those reasons that we are deferring to the aha participants to further advance their work.”

The decision made by Na‘i Aupuni, a private organization formed to organize the convention, or aha, is also grounded in the legal challenges the group has faced throughout the past months.

Aha participation initially was limited to elected delegates from each island. That was challenged in court by a group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians, who said a race-based election was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an injunction preventing votes from being counted, and the case is currently being appealed.

After the injunction, Na‘i Aupuni opened the aha to all delegate candidates, with more than 150 ultimately attending the monthlong gathering on Oahu.

Bill Meheula, Na‘i Aupuni legal counsel, said the group hopes the case will be dismissed now that the election has been canceled and the ratification vote won’t be conducted.

Kelii Akina, one of the lawsuit plaintiffs and a Native Hawaiian, criticized the decision.

“After the millions that have been spent on the state’s nation-building process, from the marketing and lobbying efforts to the aha, what do the Hawaiian people have to show for it? An unconstitutional race-based election effort and a ‘constitution’ that the state seems to want to wash its hands of,” Akina said.

But those who participated in the aha said they think having delegates work on outreach and education regarding the ratification vote was a natural next step.

“This is an opportunity for those people who participated in the aha to carry it forward,” said Amy Kalili of Hilo, one of 24 Big Island delegates. “Na‘i Aupuni was there to provide a mechanism and a means to come together and engage on that level, but it became very clear in the first, maybe the second week of the aha that there was a sense of unity forming from participants.”

“The way I’m perceiving it is that, yes, the delegates would be able to do it,” said delegate Lei Kihoi of Captain Cook.

Kihoi said the mood on the final day of the convention, when a constitution document was adopted via an 88-30 vote, with one abstention, was one of elation.

“We felt really, really good about it,” she said. “We were very excited about the fact that we completed our mission.”

Moving forward without Na‘i Aupuni will mean the delegates must secure additional financial resources. Grant funding from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs that was allocated for the ratification vote will be returned.

Kalili said fundraising talks are already underway. A post-aha organizational meeting already was hosted on the Big Island, Kihoi said. Other islands are having similar meetings, she said.

The constitution document itself allows room for recognition by the U.S. government while holding out for the possibility of independence.

ADVERTISING


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Email Ivy Ashe at iashe@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.