Testimony to go on despite hearing’s cancellation

LIHU’E – A group of people who planned on attending the now-canceled Monday hearing on Kaua’i on pending federal legislation regarding Native Hawaiian issues now plan to gather at Lydgate Park on the same day to testify and discuss the bill, beginning at 9 a.m.

The public is invited, organizers said. People who signed up for oral testimony during the congressional hearing on Kaua’i were called on Friday by Noe Kalipi, a representative of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawai’i), and advised to fly to Honolulu to give their oral testimonies on Monday. They were also told they can call a long distance number and give a five-minute testimony by phone. However, the cost for airfare or phone calls will not be covered, Kalipi said. Cheryl Lovell, a Kaua’i resident, called the Office of Hawaiian Affairs office here to ask for help with airfare, and the answer there was no, as well. Lovell said she can understand both sides of the issue, “but now I’m kanalua (have doubts).” She said that “we just need to pule (pray).” Kaliko Santos of the Kaua’i OHA office said she was flooded with calls Friday afternoon following news that the hearing here and on other islands, except Oahu, had been canceled. She said people were confused, angry and asking for help in getting to the hearings in Honolulu. Akaka’s office was giving out the office phone number of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawai’i), and that number was running a press release about the meeting changes and not taking messages, Santos said. Mike and Sondra Grace of Anahola recommended that people go to Kaua’i Community College’s Performing Arts Center, where a hearing had been scheduled for Monday, and testify, anyway. However, after calling the center, they discovered that the space was already canceled and not available, they reported. They invited citizens who cannot go to Honolulu, and do not wish to make the long distance phone call, to gather with them at Lydgate Park on Monday and give their testimonies, which may be videotaped. “We have to do it,” Michael Grace said. “They’re playing with people’s lives and not allowing our voices to be heard. It’s sick. You can see it, it’s just a scam.” Sondra Grace said, “We must get the message out about our outrage.” She also said they hope to discuss future actions to scuttle the congressional bill. Butch Kekahu, organizer of the recent Aloha March in Washington, D.C. that called attention to the issue, said, “People are going to think twice about (Akaka’s) bill now.” Kekahu said he can understand if Akaka’s medical condition-he’s recovering from hip surgery and isn’t allowed by doctors to travel by air-affect plans for the hearings. “But why not say something sooner? Why wait until the last minute like this, and people have made arrangements to be there, time off from work and all that?” Kekahu asked. He said that when he called Akaka’s office to see where he was on the list to speak, no one could tell him.

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