Going by what the law says, the Thirty Meter Telescope should be built.
Those with TMT went through a long legal process to reach the point where they could proceed with this project. The state Supreme Court ruled last October TMT’s Conservation District Use permit for construction of the $1.4 billion telescope is legal. Construction was scheduled to begin last month.
Many are calling on Gov. David Ige to enforce the laws and remove the demonstrators from the Maunakea Access Road.
In a recent letter, Hilo state Sen. Lorraine Inouye had this to say:
“We cannot pick and choose. Laws must be followed, all laws, all the time. Public trust requires bold leadership: Difficult decisions need to be made about the Maunakea, its management, and how we address the needs of our host culture.”
This is the seventh week of the access road’s occupation by protesters, who oppose the construction of TMT because they believe Maunakea is sacred. While nearly 40 demonstrators — who call themselves “protectors” — were arrested within the first week of the occupation, the situation at the access road has remained in a state of equilibrium for weeks now, with both demonstrators and law enforcement settling into a nonconfrontational routine, according to reports from West Hawaii Today.
Ige had previously issued an emergency proclamation regarding the protests on July 17, authorizing law enforcement to close more areas surrounding the access road. That proclamation was rescinded two weeks later, when the deadline to begin TMT construction was pushed back to 2021.
“If I block the road into Waipi‘o Valley (which I wouldn’t do), and refused to move, I would be arrested, hauled to court, fined or jailed,” the letter from Inouye continued. “But, if I say I am a ‘protector’ and block the (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) or the public road to the top of the mountain, I can, at this moment, do it without repercussion. That’s wrong. It opposes our rule of law.”
State Sen. Kai Kahele, who has visited with demonstrators, had another view.
“You know, there’s been enough development on the summit of Maunakea, and there’s absolutely no reason to bulldoze and excavate an area of Maunakea that has never been disrupted and disturbed in the history of our planet,” Kahele said in July. “Once you do that, you will never be able to restore that to its original condition.”
Something will have to give.
Ige is going to have to make a decision. This situation has reached a point it does not appear he saw coming. Thus, we have a standoff. But there are signs patience is getting thin.
Police recently ramped up traffic enforcement on Daniel K. Inouye Highway near Maunakea Access Road. They cited two traffic accidents, and the need for safety, as reasons why.
The state Department of Transportation erected “no parking” signs on the highway near the access road intersection, and police said that since Aug. 15 officers have issued more than 600 traffic and other citations and arrested seven individuals, charging them collectively with 13 offenses.
The citations were for a variety of reasons, including speeding; excessive window/windshield tint; driving without a license; driving without insurance; unsafe vehicle; no license plates; and parking violations.
Those behind TMT went through a long legal process on this project. No one will argue otherwise.
What we would argue is this: If you live on Kauai, and you were at either the Mauna March in Lihue in July, or the protocol and paddle-out at Pine Trees on Sunday, you could not help but notice the passion and the heart of the people there. You could not help but notice that this is about more than a legal right to build something. This is about their lives, their culture and their history. This is about their ohana. This is about land they consider sacred and saying no more. This is about standing up for something they believe in. They have done so peacefully and respectfully. The people at these gatherings should be respected, in turn, and, more important, perhaps we should listen to them. Hear their voices. If you were at either of these rallies, people participating displayed heart. It’s not about money or science or what is legally correct. It’s about who they are and who they want to be.
How often do most of us actually take a stand for something we believe? How often do we really decide enough is enough? How often do we refuse to compromise any longer because we’ve been compromising for decades and suddenly we’re living in a world we don’t recognize?
These days, people of real conviction are rare.
It seems so often these days anything goes. To be politically correct, everything is OK, it’s all a matter of personal preference. It’s hard to figure out what’s right and wrong anymore.
But those at the Mauna March and the paddle-out are men and women of conviction. At the very least, they are letting the world know where they stand and who they are.
Even if we don’t agree with them, even if we want the TMT to be built — and in all likelihood it will be — we should admire them. We should listen to their words. If we do, we might learn and even understand.