Hawaiian culture-based mediation won’t be an option for Indigenous people charged in telescope protest

Hawaiian police arrest a protestor last spring near Mount Manua Kea (Courtesy: Big Island Video News/Youtube)

APTN National News
HONOLULU – A form of mediation based in Hawaiian tradition won’t be an option for protesters arrested after blocking construction of a giant telescope on Mount Manua Kea.

The dormant volcano is considered sacred by indigenous Hawaiians but is also believed to be one of the world’s best sites for star-gazing.

Although a dozen telescopes already dot the slops and summit of Manua Kea, the on-going construction of the relatively massive 39-metre telescope has led to fears about environmental damage on the culturally-sensitive site.

Thousands of indigenous Hawaiians and their supporters have held protests and staged blockades to try and halt work on the billion-dollar project.

In April, a protester explained to a reporter from Hawaii’s indigenous broadcaster Oiwi TV why he was willing to be arrested, saying, “For our people and our country we are rising. We are standing for truth.”

Around twenty people facing charges from that protest were expected to be dealt with using a traditional mediation known as hooponopono.

Hooponopono is traditionally used within families to work out differences, using prayer and discussion.

The country prosecutor handling the cases had expressed his support for the practice.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general said in a statement that the state won’t participate, likely meaning that those charged will now face lengthy court proceedings.

Canada is a significant donor to the project, already contributing around $243 million dollars towards building a massive dome to cover the sensitive apparatus.

Dr. Ray Carlburg, a professor of astronomy at the University of Toronto, believes the project – intended to study far-off planets- is scientifically valuable.

But Carlburg also admits the telescope could disrupt the ecology of Manua Kea, recently telling an interviewer that the environmental impact statement on the project recognizes there will be “a significant impact on the mountain.”

He adds that plans are in place to mitigate those impacts “to make them less damaging or acceptable.”

According to at least one expert, however, any damage could result in charges under international law.

Dr. Keanu Sai of the University of Hawaii says international conventions forbid the destruction of sacred sites.

Sai told Oiwi TV, “You cannot destroy monuments of religion and worship.”

(With files from The Associated Press)

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