OHA’s Top Executive Holds Press Conference

From the Office of Hawaiian Affairs website

Kamana‘opono Crabbe, the Ka Pouhana and CEO at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, held a press conference today to address much-publicized concerns over a letter he sent to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as part of the organizationʻs broader effort to facilitate a Hawaiian nation-building process.

Below are the prepared comments of Dr. Kamana‘opono Crabbe.

Prepared Comments of Dr. Kamana‘opono Crabbe
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Ka Pouhana and CEO
Press Conference of May 12, 2014
(Spontaneous comments were also provided in addition to what is noted below.)

Aloha mai kākou,

I called this media conference today to offer additional information about my letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which was sent within my authority under OHA’s governing documents and Hawai‘i statutory law.

As with any leader, I am often called upon to make tough decisions, which are sometimes controversial. I continue to believe my decision to send the letter was in the best interest of OHA and the beneficiaries we serve. I stand behind this decision and accept full responsibility for it.

As Ka Pouhana and CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, I must ensure that the policies and commitments of the OHA Board of Trustees are implemented with thorough due diligence and a minimization of risk to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. I take this responsibility seriously. And that was the chief reason for my inquiry with Secretary Kerry.

As stated in the media release sent out this past Friday, I requested that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seek a legal opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the status of Hawai‘i under international law. I also posed additional questions to clarify how the answer to that primary question impacts current efforts to rebuild a Hawaiian nation.

Answers from the Office of Legal Counsel are needed for OHA to effectively facilitate a process of rebuilding a Hawaiian nation. We must start with agreed upon facts (or begin identifying points of disagreement that require clarification).
Highly qualified experts have provided their answers to the questions posed. However, the stakes are far too high for OHA to proceed under assumptions. We need clarity to understand the United States’ position.

A second reason for my questions to Secretary Kerry stems from our Hawaiian community. My staff and I have held some 30 community meetings in the past two months regarding our proposed process to rebuild our nation. In that same period we also held two governance summits with key community leaders. At these gatherings, and in other virtual contexts, we heard repeatedly concerns about engaging in a process of rebuilding a nation when—following the research of many legal, historical, and political experts—our nation continues to exist in the context of international law.

Such concerns have led our community to request more time in the nation rebuilding process to have questions—such as I raised with Secretary Kerry—fully explored and shared with our people so that they can make well-informed decisions throughout the process.

The Board of Trustees, OHA staff, and the Hawaiian community needed to know that I was inquiring about the very matters many of them sought to bring forward. And this is the reason I felt it was imperative not only that I ask the questions but that everyone be aware of the inquiry.

However, recognizing the gravity of the questions posed, I met with Chair Machado before making the letter public. I explained that my questions were a matter of due diligence and risk management to avoid OHA missteps in its nation rebuilding facilitation. I believed I had her assent to proceed with sharing publicly my letter to Secretary Kerry. Unfortunately, it is now apparent that we walked away from that meeting with a misunderstanding and misinformation.

Despite disagreements that will need to be worked out between myself and OHA’s trustees, I am certain that the Board and I stand firmly together in our commitment to do all that we appropriately can to reestablish a Hawaiian nation. I look forward to engaging with the trustees in the ho‘oponopono, which Chair Machado graciously suggested, so that we can work collectively to Ho‘oulu Lāhui Aloha, to Rebuild a Beloved Nation. We must succeed in our efforts for the good of our lāhui, our community, and our families for generations to come.

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