2 state senators urge TMT to abandon Mauna Kea

Star Advertiser By Kevin Dayton Aug. 6, 2019

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State Sen. Kurt Fevella, right, participated in a protocol ceremony Monday held by TMT protesters on Mauna Kea.

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii >> State Sens. Kai Kahele and Kurt Fevella each made formal offerings to show their respect for the kupuna, or senior protesters, on Mauna Kea Monday, and both said the Thirty Meter Telescope should give up on the effort to build on the mountain.

Kahele, who is part- Hawaiian and chairman of the Senate Water and Land Committee, brought his wife and three daughters to the blocked Mauna Kea Access Road to present an offering from his Milolii family to the kupuna.

He made his offering in front of about 250 protesters gathered for midday protocol on Mauna Kea Access Road. Anti-TMT activists have blocked the road for more than three weeks to prevent construction equipment from reaching the summit area to begin site work for TMT.


“Spain is ready to welcome the Thirty Meter Telescope with open arms, and if you cannot solve this situation here, nothing is worth destroying the very social fabric of our community and that aloha spirit that exists in all of us,” said Kahele (D, Hilo). “There’s no project — there’s nothing — worth putting that at risk.”

Kahele has announced plans to run for the U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard has called on Gov. David Ige to deactivate the 80 Hawaii National Guard troops that are helping to respond to the protests, and delay any new construction on Mauna Kea.

“While the legal process has determined that the Thirty Meter Telescope project may proceed, there are spiritual and cultural issues that have not been addressed,” Gabbard wrote in a letter to Ige. “This is about something much greater than one telescope project — it has to do with longstanding history on Mauna Kea, broken promises, desecration of sacred land and disrespect for native culture.”

“No show of force can overcome the power of aloha aina spanning multiple generations chaining themselves to cattle guards, kupuna prepared to be arrested as many times as it takes, and thousands of protectors holding strong to kapu aloha keeping the entire situation peaceful,” wrote Gabbard, a Democrat who represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.

Fevella, the lone Republican in the state Senate, said he came to Mauna Kea last weekend to see family members who have joined in the protest, and stayed to honor the kupuna. He is also Hawaiian.

“Staying at home and watching it on TV and listening to people talk about ’em, you ain’t going to feel ’em,” said Fevella (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point). “Being here in the presence of all of this just brought me to tears. I just want to show the respect to my family, to my ancestors, my parents, my grandparents.”

“This is a one-time-in-a-lifetime experience, and people should come and learn,” he said. “They should come and learn because it’s not all about the telescope. It’s about everything about being a Hawaiian. I think that’s where people are missing the whole point.”

As many as 3,000 people at a time have gathered to join in the protests on Mauna Kea against the proposed $1.4 billion telescope. TMT opponents consider the project to be a desecration of mountain that some Hawaiians believe to be sacred.

A spokesman for TMT said that “Maunakea continues to be our preferred choice for TMT and we remain hopeful that we can find a way forward, with mutual respect.”