State Issues Subpoenas For Info On Hawaiian Affairs Agency's Protest Support

Sep 20, 2019

HILO, Hawaii — The state attorney general's office is ordering the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to provide information about how the agency is helping protesters blocking construction of a giant telescope.

The attorney general's office subpoenaed the agency to provide documents related to efforts to ensure safety and welfare of beneficiaries on Mauna Kea, OHA spokesman Sterling Wong said.

The semi-autonomous state agency is tasked with improving the conditions of Native Hawaiians. There are nine publicly elected trustees.

The board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution authorizing OHA staff to advocate for the protesters and to do "assessment and provision of health, safety and legal needs" for the activists.

Thirty Meter Telescope opponents have been blocking the mountain's access road since July. OHA Trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among the mostly Native Hawaiian elders who were arrested for blocking the road. Opponents of the telescope say it will desecrate land that's sacred to some Native Hawaiians. Supporters say the project has a legal right to proceed.

The agency is inclined to cooperate if the scope and purpose of the attorney general requests are legitimate, Wong said.

Attorney general spokesman Krishna Jayaram declined to release a copy of the subpoena, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Three OHA trustees visited the access road Thursday to support protesters, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

Trustee Colette Machado said the agency is limited in the support it can provide.

"Don't give up on OHA," she said. "Allow us to do what we can. We have some limitations. We have no powers ... except our commitment, which is to serve our people. Outside of that we have no authority to govern anything else, but your voices are being heard."

Trustee Dan Ahuna urged protesters to stay strong.

"Aloha will always win," he said. "Aloha is exposing the truth."

The agency's 2017 lawsuit against the state for mismanagement of Mauna Kea is pending.