Is this Kauai or North Korea?

When reading the TGI article (March 17, 2016) about the American student who tried to steal a political banner in Pyongyang, North Korea and was caught and sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversion, I found the punishment unreasonably harsh. According to the North Korea News Service, the banner was an educational banner. The news about the student’s action produced an echo here on Kauai, too. There were already two articles recently (March 18 and March 25) in the TGI about Hawaiian educational signs confiscated on this island by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Thinking about these cases, including of course the events on Kauai too, I recalled the very popular KKCR radio show “Kauai Soapbox.” In the Feb. 23 Kauai Soapbox (http://www.kkcr.org/archive2.html) the invited guest Justin Kollar, Kauai’s prosecuting attorney responded on the air to a caller complaining about the frustration of Hawaiians for not getting back their educational signs confiscated by DLNR in February last year.

I was wondering why educational signs are confiscated by law enforcement in the United States, especially by a state agency whose mandate is to take care of lands and natural resources. The call also revealed that the prosecuting attorney justifying the actions of DLNR had filed a lawsuit against two of the Hawaiians presumed to be the installers of the signs.

Mr. Kollar explained the reason, namely that the signs contained a statement saying “Hawaii is not part of the United States.” Hmmm, does this statement really deserve a court trial? Even if the actual messages on the signs were different, they were true though, the First Amendment protects our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Good education costs a lot, at least to those who want to acquire it, but in this case it must have cost an awful lot for those who wanted to prevent it, namely for the State of Hawaii, and ultimately, for Kauai taxpayers. How come, one might say? Let’s use just common sense and the actual timeline of events to figure this out.

One of the educational signs was re-installed on Hawaiian land at the Hanapepe Lookout in March 2011 by the Hawaiians after it had been removed by the order of Mayor Carvalho on Dec. 28, 2010 (TGI Jan. 8, 2011).

On Jan. 15, 2015, the Hawaiians installed at the same lookout another nicely designed educational sign which was removed by DLNR on Feb. 11, 2015 along with the other sign that already stood there for four years.

On the same day, the Hawaiians filed a police report because of the removal of their signs. Even if the police report contained whose property the signs were and who installed them, DLNR refused to give them back to the Hawaiians. Kauai Land Manager Mr. Mikasa said that the case is under investigation. DLNR investigated the case (even if there was no doubt about the ownership or the installers of the signs) and the investigation lasted until Aug. 17, 2015 when DLNR issued the citations to two Hawaiians. There were two court appearances and finally on Dec. 17, 2015 the Hawaiians prevailed in court.

But as TGI has reported, the signs are still not returned and the legal battle continues.

Do you realize the cost of removing the signs by county or state workers, the seven months of investigation, the prosecuting attorney’s time and court expenses?

That should come to tens of thousands of dollars! Spent for what? Just to block freedom of speech? It would have been much cheaper for the state to install a big sign in front of the State Building in Lihue with these words: Warning! Freedom of speech does not apply to Hawaiians!

Now, I have concluded that we have some similarities with North Korea. They prosecute people for removing educational signs and on Kauai, Hawaiians are being prosecuted for installing educational signs. They have government censorship and we have government censorship. But there is a big difference. They cannot afford wasting so much money as this state does.

George Orwell, it is time to wake up! Or perhaps you have been awake for quite a while?

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János Keoni Samu is a resident of Kalaheo.

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