LIHU‘E — New laws on the state and national levels have expanded the recognition of Native Hawaiians’ rights to self-determination. With that in mind, a sovereignty group on Kaua‘i remains concerned that local law enforcement needs more awareness to avoid interfering with individuals exercising those rights.
Prime Minister Henry Noa and Kekane Pa of the “Reinstated Hawaiian Government” delivered that message to the county Police Commission at its July 22 meeting.
“It is their responsibility and they should go find out, whereas we are doing exactly what we have a right to do — that is reclaiming our sovereign national right within the application of perfect rights,” Noa said.
He said KPD should be aware that in the course of its work, officers could be in violation of new laws protecting the rights of indigenous Hawaiians in their pursuit of rebuilding a nation. His immediate concern was that KPD does not understand the visible form of establishing a functioning government, with various registrations, vehicle tags and driver’s licenses and permits for businesses and activities compliant with Hawaiian or U.S. laws.
The Police Commission listened to the presentation. The replies and questions following focused on the nature of enforcing statutes and ordinances, but stopped short of explaining when police would confiscate items from individuals.
Commissioner Thomas Iannucci said KPD does not determine policy; oversight comes from county and federal attorneys who set mandates. When a law or policy comes in conflict with a nation group he said it is “perplexing” and that KPD is bound to uphold a given interpretation of the law until a new directive comes down.
Iannucci said the most effective way to have a concern addressed is to file a complaint with the Police Commission, and that as one of the longest serving commissioners, he has not seen many complaints on this topic of discussion.
“The Kaua‘i Police Department is very sensitive to the ethnicity of all people, including those who seek to form a new or re-instated Hawaiian Government,” Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry said earlier this month. “And within that framework, we will continue to enforce all laws applicable to citizens of the United States, and State of Hawai‘i, as authorized by the Department of the Attorney General for the State of Hawai‘i.”
The Reinstated Hawaiian Government declared itself the Kanaka Maoli reinstated government in 1999. This action followed the 1993 Congressional Apology Resolution signed by President Bill Clinton, acknowledging that the United States participated in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government in 1893.
Noa referenced the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It recognizes the rights of self-determination of political-economic, social and cultural development status, and to autonomy or self-government with internal and local affairs, with distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions. The United States signed onto the declaration in December 2010.
In July the Hawai‘i Legislature passed a bill which further recognized the inherent sovereign authority of indigenous people to organize for their common welfare.
Noa said that both the state and federal governments have now by their own admission recognized unlawful acts and that the indigenous Native Hawaiian people did not relinquish their authority or claim to lands in the 1893 takeover.
The law, Noa said, now obligates local government to support reinstating the offices of the former Hawaiian government.
“That is our position that we have taken and it has actually evolved to higher a standard, just this past year and just this past month,” he said.
In a recent phone interview, Noa said he accomplished the primary goal of the meeting to get people in law enforcement concerned enough to start reading up on their own about how the new laws impact their work. He said that a commissioner and a high ranking KPD officer asked for additional materials related to the topics discussed at the commission meeting.
“They don’t really know what is happening,” he said. “So, that was positive.”
Noa does not discredit other sovereign groups but said many fall short of fulfilling the requirement under international law to claim sovereign recognition. He said others look to be recognized when they as kanaka people already have perfect rights and may choose the sovereignty group they wish to support.
Noa said his group bases its legitimacy from the Seventh Conference of American States in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1934. In addition to producing the “Good Neighbor Policy,” the conference established four criteria for a nation-state that became widely accepted as the declarative statehood theory under customary international law — “Population, defined territory, government and a capacity for international relationships” — whereas the constitutive theory considers legitimacy as based on the recognition of other nation-states.
He said sovereignty groups made mistakes in trying to reclaim a national identity and a country but their path is made clearer by looking to the legislative record. He added that the objective of addressing proper ownership of government, crown and national lands can be gained by exercising existing laws.
“The final goal is to be respected as a governing body, and we understood that we would also have to learn how to conduct ourselves under the rule of law,” Noa said.
The next Police Commission meeting is 9 a.m., Friday, at the Mo‘ikeha Building in Meeting Room 2A/2B. Visit www.kauai.gov to view the agenda and for more information.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.