OHA Chair Demands Governor Halt TMT Construction

Jul 13, 2019

Credit Catherine Cruz

The chairperson of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has demanded a halt to construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope that is scheduled to start next week.

Chairperson Colette Machado along with OHA Trustee Dan Ahuna said in a July 12 letter to Gov. David Ige that the stoppage was needed to "avoid foreseeable harm to Native Hawaiians and the public until material steps are taken to ensure public safety."

Ahuna chairs OHA's Ad Hoc Committee on Maunakea.

Ige announced earlier this week that construction is proceeding ahead following a decade-long delay. Large demonstrations initially stopped construction, then a legal challenge further put off work on the telescope.

The state Supreme Court cleared the way last year for the project to proceed and the final step, a notice to proceed, was issued last month.

The OHA leaders stated the steps they are demanding are needed to minimize the "highly foreseeable potential for physical harm and psychological trauma to Native Hawaiians seeking to practice their culture and to voice their opposition to the decades-long pattern of mismanagement of one of our islands’ most sacred spaces."

Machado and Ahuna set out a list of actions they want the governor to take, including prohibiting any action to provoke or intimidate any cultural practitioners or "protectors," a name a group of activists opposing the telescope on Mauna Kea have given themselves.

The OHA leaders also demanded the governor coordinate efforts among the various state agencies involved in the TMT project and native Hawaiians "to meaningfully alleviate tensions within the Native Hawaiian community and recognize and respect all cultural beliefs regarding the sacred Mauna, as necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of OHA’s beneficiaries...".

The letter also called on the governor to prohibit any use of unwarranted force against nonviolent protesters, including use of crowd control devices like Long Range Acoustic Devices. It further demanded that the state ensure the safety of those exercising cultural practices and "peaceful expression and opposition." 

HPR has asked the governor's office for comment and is awaiting a response.

OHA Letter to Governor Ige Dated July 12 2019