Protesters to Kim: Inclusion of TMT in vision for Maunakea still an obstacle to ‘Way Forward’

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Thirty Meter Telescope opponents link their arms July 15 as they block the Maunakea Access Road.

After a meeting between Thirty Meter Telescope opponents and Mayor Harry Kim on Monday at the Maunakea Access Road, neither side has any intention of backing down.

Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the kupuna arrested in July during protests against the construction of the TMT, said the protesters invited Kim to the Maunakea Access Road on Monday to discuss his proposal for Maunakea, which was unveiled last week.

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That proposal — a 15-page booklet titled “Heart of Aloha — Maunakea: A Way Forward” — listed a number of ways the state and University of Hawaii have addressed grievances by the Hawaiian community and included a vision for the future of Maunakea as an example to the world of a synthesis of culture and science.

During Monday’s discussion, which Kim and Wong-Wilson described as “cordial,” both sides explained their perspectives, but the protesters explained they cannot agree with Kim’s proposal if it continues to allow the construction of TMT.

“Some (of the kupuna) said they’re willing to give their lives for this cause,” Wong-Wilson said.

The kupuna, or elders, have been among thousands of protesters — who call themselves protectors of Maunakea — who have occupied the Maunakea Access Road since mid-July, with a sizable camp now sprawling around the protest site.

The protest began as opposition to the construction of TMT on a mountain considered sacred to some Hawaiians, but has since expanded into a broader protest against state mismanagement of Hawaiian affairs.

Kim said many of the kupuna seemed to agree with the majority of his proposal, but the inclusion of TMT in his vision was a deal breaker.

“His reaction was that his vision is his own, and that he does not apologize for it,” Wong-Wilson said.

With both sides at an impasse, the mayor and the kupuna are looking at how they can continue their discussions.

“My job now is to find out ways to keep having these meetings,” Kim said. “People think of this proposal as a plan, but it’s more than just a yes-or-no thing. It’s an appeal for people to come together to work for a solution.”

Kim said “Heart of Aloha” has been well-received by other groups and agencies throughout the state, including the governor’s office. However, he said he has not yet had a chance to discuss the proposal at length with Gov. David Ige.

Wong-Wilson, meanwhile, said she told Kim to reconsider his stance on the telescope.

“He’s willing to put his community through these feelings of anxiety for a foreign corporation,” Wong-Wilson said, adding that if TMT is taken off the table, then the kupuna would be more than willing to discuss their other complaints and the other aspects of Kim’s vision.

“I think we already have a peace park right here,” Wong-Wilson said, referring to a central part of Kim’s vision for the future of the mountain.

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“He’s talking about a peace park at the summit of the mauna, or at 9,000 feet. We’ve got a peace park right here at 6,000 feet,” she said, referring to the camp at the base of the access road.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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