HONOLULU (AP) - The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is delaying its government-building process by six months, hoping to involve more people in the process of rebuilding a Hawaiian nation.
Elections for officers to lead a Native Hawaiian government will be held in January, instead of the earlier proposal to hold them between May and September this year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday. A convention to draft a new constitution for Native Hawaiians will be held in April instead of October or November this year.
"We believe that this new timetable helps to position us to build a strong sovereign governing entity that will be embraced by all of our people," said Colette Machado, chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, in a statement.
The delay had been suggested in May by the office's CEO, Kamanaopono Crabbe, because in public meetings people were asking for more time to educate Native Hawaiians on the issues. After that proposal, many Native Hawaiians loudly rejected a proposal for possible federal recognition during meetings with the U.S. Department of the Interior that were held throughout the islands.
But the office's board of trustees rejected Crabbe's proposal to start a new registry of Native Hawaiians who would be eligible to vote, instead of the one compiled by Kanaiolowalu, also known as the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission.
Trustee Oswald Stender said the existing Kanaiolowalu roll, featuring more than 125,000 Native Hawaiians from three different registries, is adequate.
Former OHA trustee Walter Ritte said he was disappointed because he and other advocates of Hawaiian independence were pushing for a two-year delay. He said they also were hoping to fix Kanaiolowalu, the official roll of eligible voters established by the state Legislature.
"We were looking for different ways to open up participation," Ritte said. "This sounds too restrictive. I guess OHA isn't listening."
Former Gov. John Waihee, chairman of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, said the commission may now decide to reopen the roll to additional names because it has more time.