TMT opponents ask Japan to end involvement with project

  • Protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha in 2019. (MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY/Tribune-Herald)

Protesters in opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea presented a letter to the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu urging the Japanese government to cease its involvement in the project.

The National Institutes of Natural Sciences and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan are jointly one of the six full partners invested in the TMT project, and are currently in the process of manufacturing hundreds of the mirror segments that will make up the observatory’s eponymous thirty-meter-wide primary mirror.

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On Monday, several anti-TMT demonstrators visited the Japanese consulate in Honolulu intending to meet with Consul General Koichi Ito. However, they were not able to enter the building without an appointment, and instead delivered to consul Koutaro Matsuzawa, who met with them outside the building, a letter urging the Japanese government to withdraw from the TMT project.

“We respectfully demand that Japan withdraw all support for the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea,” reads a translated version of the letter. “By doing so, the government and people of Japan will prevent further intrusion, desecration and destruction upon the sacred lands of Maunakea.”

The letter specifically draws comparisons between Maunakea and Mount Fuji in Japan, as both are held in significant reverence in their respective cultures.

Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains and is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations; meanwhile, the anti-TMT demonstrators oppose the project because they consider Maunakea a sacred site.

The letter was presented in response to a meeting between Gov. David Ige and several Japanese governmental agencies in mid-February.

It contests a claim by Ige that negotiations to resolve the conflict are occurring, and reiterates the protesters’ commitment to non-violent, but uncompromising resistance to the TMT project on Maunakea.

“We want to make sure that we were able to get our message to the Japanese consulate so that our message and the stance of our people would not be misrepresented,” said protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha. “So hopefully now, if it wasn’t before, the message is very clear to the government and people of Japan that we do not consent to the further desecration of Maunakea through the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope.”

Meanwhile, a moratorium on TMT construction that was agreed upon by Mayor Harry Kim and TMT ended over the weekend, but changed little about the current situation.

While Kim promised that no construction would take place through the end of February, little has changed at the main protest site on the Maunakea Access Road.

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“There’s nothing happening as far as we know, we have received no communication,” Kanuha said. “We don’t anticipate anything happening and it remains as it is….Things are as they were last week.”

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

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