Hawaiian group demands restoration of the monarchy
By MARK NIESSE (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
June 19, 2008 1:55 PM EDT
HONOLULU - Surrounded by royal guards
and the occasional tourist, Her Majesty Mahealani Kahau and her
government ministers hold court every day in a tent outside the palace
of Hawaii's last monarch, passing laws and discussing how to secure
reparations for the Native Hawaiian people.
Kahau and her followers are members of
the self-proclaimed Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which is devoted to
restoring the Hawaiian monarchy overthrown in 1893. Nearly two months
ago, they stormed the gates of the old Iolani Palace, and they have
politely occupied the grounds ever since, operating like a
"We're here to assume and resume what
is already ours and what has always been ours," said Kahau, who is a
descendant of Hawaii's last king and was elected "head of state" by the
The Hawaiian Kingdom Government, which
was founded seven years ago and claims 1,000 followers, uses its own
license plates and maintains its own judicial system. In recent years,
members have voted to dissolve the state of Hawaii, its land titles,
welfare programs and public schools. They also claim the right to
confiscate all bank assets in Hawaii.
The organization's actions do not
carry the force of law, and the state has mostly taken a hands-off
approach. It has not confiscated any of the license plates, for
example, or arrested anyone for using them.
Hawaii has about 200,000 Native
Hawaiians out of a population of 1.3 million. The Hawaiian Kingdom
Government is just one of several native organizations that claim
sovereignty over the islands, tapping into a strong sense among Native
Hawaiians that they were wronged by history.
More than a century ago, a group of
sugar planters and other businessmen, most of them Americans, overthrew
the Hawaiian monarchy with the support of U.S. military forces. Queen
Liliuokalani was imprisoned at the ornate Iolani Palace, built in 1882
by her brother, King Kalakaua. Hawaii was annexed by the United States
in 1898 and became a state in 1959.
"We are definitely trying to correct a
wrong that we feel has been done to us as a people," said Hawaiian
Kingdom Government spokesman Orrin Kupau.
On April 30, members of the Hawaiian
Kingdom Government trooped onto the palace grounds in the heart of
Honolulu and shut the gates behind them, leading to a few tense hours
before they finally reopened the entrance.
Every day, Kahau and about a dozen of
her government officials meet in the tent. Every evening their fold up
their tent and go home, returning in the morning.
State officials have largely ignored
them, and police have made no arrests. The Hawaiian Kingdom Government
has said it has no intention of resorting to violence.
Every week, the Hawaiian Kingdom
Government obtains a public-assembly permit that allows it to occupy
the grounds of the palace, a museum and popular tourist attraction next
door to the state Capitol.
As far as the state is concerned, the
Hawaiian Kingdom Government is treated the same as any other group that
wants to conduct activities on public ground, said Deborah Ward,
spokeswoman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"As long as they comply with the permit conditions, they may continue to request permits to meet," she said.
Those conditions prohibit the Hawaiian
Kingdom Government from interfering with access to the palace,
harassing pedestrians, collecting money, posting banners or entering
several government buildings. State authorities gave Kahau a warning
when she went inside one of the buildings to collect her mail.
It is unclear how the organization's
members intend to oust the state government. They also want reparations
in the form of housing, low-cost health care and cash. The kingdom
slapped a $7 trillion fine on the Hawaii state government in 2007.
A professor of international law who
favors Hawaiian independence, Francis Boyle, said he believes the
Hawaiian Kingdom Government has a valid claim.
"The essence of sovereignty under
international law is people living on their land and asserting their
rights, and that's what the Native Hawaiians are doing. They've made a
lot of progress," said Boyle, a professor at the University of
Illinois. "This is the way to go."
A state agency, the Office of Hawaiian
Affairs, is pursuing something far short of a restoration of the
monarchy. It is pressing for federal legislation that would give Native
Hawaiians a degree of self-government similar to what many American
Indian tribes have. The hope is that Native Hawaiians will also regain
some of their ancestral land.
The legislation has passed the U.S. House and is pending in the Senate.
"There's got to be a legal way in which to try to get these issues resolved," said OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo.
On the Net:
Hawaiian Kingdom Government: http://www.higovt.org
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