KALAPAKI BEACH – U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye bristled when he read in a newspaper that some Native Hawaiians cried “conspiracy” when hearings on proposed federal legislation recognizing Native Hawaiian status were canceled. U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, the only Native Hawaiian in the Senate and author of the bill, was ordered by his doctor to have emergency hip-replacement surgery.
He was also advised by doctors not to travel to the neighbor islands after that surgery, Inouye said Monday. “I hope these people understand that we do our best. I hope they’re not suggesting Akaka postpone the surgery,” said Inouye, adding that he’s been under doctors’ care enough to know that when a physician recommends surgery and limited post-operative travel, you listen. “I hope people know better than to suggest conspiracy,” said Inouye, who noted he has missed funerals of good friends and family members because of his Senate work. “We do our best to meet our schedule,” he said. Inouye admitted Akaka’s surgery came at an inopportune time, but added, “We tried our best to accommodate all.” He said a telephone number was given to all who had signed up to testify, so that their testimonies could be taped for inclusion into the Senate record of the hearings. Also, he said, written statements will be made part of that permanent record, printed up just as testimony from all hearings are, and be available for the public to see, probably on a Web site. “But you just can’t avoid the fact that Sen. Akaka had problems with his hip. It was not a conspiracy or anything,” said Inouye, who honored his commitment to address the 25th anniversary and annual board meeting of Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc. at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Beach Club here last night. When someone suggested the hearings go on as scheduled on the Neighbor Islands without Akaka present, Inouye responded, “He’s the author (of the proposed legislation), the Native Hawaiian on the panel.” The public hearings could have been pushed back until after the November elections, but that would have meant the Senate would probably not act on the proposed legislation this year. Inouye’s feeling is, “Let’s take a crack at it this year.” The senior senator also said that interest in the “Akaka bill” among his fellow senators ranges “from nil to lukewarm.” Finally, he emphasized that the senators are doing everything in their power to ensure the voices of all people are heard regarding the bill. “I’m telling you, we’re listening to all sides,” he said.
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