Kim recaps TMT meeting, reiterates opposition to use of force

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Mayor Harry Kim holds a press conference Monday at the Hawaii County Building.

A Friday meeting between leaders of the Native Hawaiian community and Mayor Harry Kim regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope project was inconclusive, Kim said at a press conference today.

As part of his role as mediator between the state and TMT opponents, Kim said he arranged the meeting to receive “guidance” from community leaders about how to address the ongoing protest against construction of the telescope.

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However, Kim said the only real consensus from the meeting was an “acknowledgment of differing viewpoints,” as well as an agreement to have more meetings in the hope of reaching a solution agreeable to all parties.

Kim reaffirmed his intention to find an end to the standoff over TMT as quickly as possible, saying he “does everything with urgency,” but explained that his authority to expedite the process is limited.

Kim also said he is unaware of two reported deals that were offered to TMT opponents occupying Maunakea Access Road.

One deal, reportedly made last week, offered to suspend TMT construction activity if demonstrators allowed vehicles to return to the summit, but it was rejected by protesters. Kim said Monday that, while his office did not make such an offer, one of his goals is for access to the mountain to “return to normality” until the TMT dispute can be resolved.

The other deal supposedly was made Sunday, when demonstrators announced that they would allow observatory workers to the summit in exchange for one vehicle of their own to be permitted up the mountain. Kim said he was unaware of such a deal.

John O’Meara, chief scientist at W. M. Keck Observatory, said Monday that no observatory staff have made any negotiations with demonstrators, and observatory technicians are allowed up on a case-by-case basis, as they were early last week.

“Nothing has fundamentally changed,” O’Meara said, although he added that he believes that vehicles carrying demonstrators are now allowed up the mountain on a limited basis.

A statement by Maunakea Observatories confirmed Monday that the observatories never made any deal with protesters.

During his press conference, Kim reaffirmed his personal support for the TMT Monday, saying “I support TMT as a resource of science. I support TMT to be done in a good way, a right way.”

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However, Kim also reiterated his absolute opposition to the use of force to clear Maunakea Access Road: “I don’t even want to go there mentally. Because if I do, that means we’ve failed.”

That said, Kim acknowledged that he does not have the authority to mobilize the National Guard against the protests, despite his opposition to violence.

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