A BETTER KAUAI – How would Kingdom of Atooi be governed?

The Garden Island recently printed a petition addressed to Hawai‘i Gov. Linda Lingle by persons and organizations seeking to establish the islands of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau as the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi and an article about its sponsors (“On the Kingdom of Atooi,” Forum, April 1) (“Group on quest to return Kingdom of Atooi,” A1, April 11). While the claims made in the petition are doubtless sincere and heartfelt, the reality of their prospects is open to doubt and their contentions are open to challenge.

According to the petition the establishment of the Polynesian Kingdom is necessary to rectify the seizure of the Hawaiian nation on Jan. 17, 1893, by a coup claimed illegal in which the reigning monarch Queen Liliu‘okalani abdicated under duress. We should note that the rectification sought is limited to Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, a small segment of the Hawaiian nation.

It is a puzzlement why the petition was sent to Gov. Lingle. Since the petition claims the state was illegally created, where is the power of the governor to address its claims? Since the Civil War it has been clear that any secession of any part of the United States would require the action of the federal government, but the petition sent ignores its role.

The petition evades the point that in 1893 after the Queen’s abdication, the government of Hawai‘i transitioned from an independent nation having a constitutional monarchy to an independent republican nation. It does not mention that the advent of Hawai‘i as an American territory occurred more than five years later and that Hawai‘i became an American state in 1959 following a plebiscite of its residents showing that over 90 percent wished this status.

The petition articulates that full rights of governance of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau are sought by Dayne Aipoalani who claims to be an ali‘i and rightful heir to be the sovereign for the islands. The documentation of this claim is said to have been given the governor by non-public transmittals.

The petition is not unique in seeking restoration of the power of the native Hawaiians in the governance of Hawai‘i. But like most of the others its focus is on the injury said to have occurred but is silent on consideration of the form and nature of the governance that is proposed and its benefit for the residents. The petition does not undertake to provide any indication that the government to be created will be other than one where the monarch is an absolute despot. While there are numerous citizens of Kaua‘i County who would not be chagrined if the County Council were abolished or the mayor removed, it is disquieting not to have some suggestion as to how it is planned the government of our area would proceed.

Similarly the petition does not reflect that there have been some fundamental changes that have occurred since 1893. Only a small percentage of the people of Kaua‘i County are now of Polynesian ancestry. Kaua‘i residents have relied for many years on services provided by state and federal governments including schools, libraries, airports, roads and social benefits. If Atooi is to be an independent nation what is to be its relationship and the relationship of its people with America? The businesses and citizens of the area have at length conducted their affairs using the American dollar. What would be the currency of Atooi? Would it be necessary to have a passport to visit America and would passports be required for visitors to Atooi? What would be done about the indebtedness of Kaua‘i County? What would be the national language of Atooi? What would be the status of properties acquired in good faith? There are many other matters arising from the interrelationships that exist that would need resolution and regrettably the petition mentions only the desire for autonomy and the grievances.

Probably the most glaring and critical deficiency of the petition is that it makes no assertion that the establishment of the Atooi government is sought by the people who would be governed. Those who have experienced democracy believe as an article of faith that no government should be imposed by the few at the expense of the many. But the petition was not directed to the people residing on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Apparently the principle that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed was not considered applicable.

Although the events said to justify action by the governor occurred more than 100 years ago and Hawai‘i became an American state nearly 50 years ago, intriguingly the petition expressed a tone of urgency seeking a response by the governor within 10 days of its receipt. The petition is both disturbingly sincere and patently inadequate. It is hard to see why it should be seriously entertained unless, and until the various vital concerns are properly addressed.

• Walter Lewis is a resident of Princeville and writes a bi-weekly column for The Garden Island.

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