Sovereignty


A shorter version of  my previous post hit the Maui News on November 30th. I was in bed with a cold that morning, and it didn’t take long for a local fellow to a call and express his displeasure. Other than veiled threats, the gist of his message to me was:

  • I needed to be educated about the situation. (Done, and continuing: During the 10+ years I’ve made my home here, I’ve read widely on the subject, including a number of pro-sovereignty texts on and off line.)
  • The haoles have no aloha. (Partly true.)
  • The haoles are stealing land. (Partly true. Newcomers have played fast and loose in claiming title to land: in the past by manipulating the Hawaiian and Territorial Government, now by “buying” interest from one member of a large ohana, and making expensive-to-fight quiet title claims on the rest of the extended family).
  • The haoles aren’t even following their own rules. (False)
  • The case of Hawaiian Sovereignty is before the World Court (which will presumably straighten this whole thing out). (Half true)

A number of sovereignty activists and supporters point to the fact that the World Court has accepted papers from one or more Hawaiian groups that dispute the US “occupation” of Hawai’i as proof that an authoritative third party sees enough merit in the case to, in essence, give the complainants the time of day.

The flaw in this line of thinking is the belief that a bureaucracy accepting papers reflects a favorable view of the text they contain. Just as that one can sue anyone about anything in the US, anyone can drop off a complain with the World Court (or, at least one of its three bodies):

  • International Criminal Court: even if Thurston Twigg-Smith had  slain half of all native Hawaiians by his own hand, if he did it before the Court was formed in 2002, they won’t hear the case.
  • International Court of Justice: in addition to supplying legal opinions to the UN, the ICJ produces a binding ruling between states that agree to submit to the ruling of the court. The states must be recognized as legitimate, and both states must agree to submit if the case is to be heard. As it stands, the UN and all nations that have diplomatic relations with the US recognize Hawai’i as an integral part of the US.
  • Permanent Court of Arbitration: …”serve[s] as the registry for purposes of international arbitration and other related procedures, including commissions of enquiry and conciliation. In short, it is a permanent framework available to assist temporary arbitral tribunals or commissions.” This is probably the body referred to by activists. While they will accept complaints from just about any body that can manage to organize itself, the key word is “arbitration”. If the US declines arbitration, the PCA has no jurisdiction to force the issue.

Ultimately, this brings me back to a point I’ve previously made in letters to the editor. The legal and political status of Hawai’i as a State of the Union is firmly set. The legal distance between it and – say – Rhode Island is shorter than the text of this post. Hawai’i won’t be cut loose by the stroke of a pen, unless proceeded by war, or a process at least as arduous as amending the Federal Constitution.

The truth may hurt, but knowledge can set my morning caller free, free to seek a route that might put him closer to his goal, rather than chasing dreams.

A year or two ago on Akaku TV, I participated in a panel discussing the merits of holding another Hawaii State Constitutional Convention. Towards the end of the broadcast, we took a few questions from callers. One was from a younger gentleman in Pukalani, who questioned why we were bothering to argue over a function of – in his view – an illegitimate entity, the State of Hawai’i.

In today’s Maui News Letters, this issue popped back up in a letter from a gentleman in Haiku reporting an attorney’s motion to dismiss a case (probably State v. Akahi), based on the claim that a State court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear it.

I’d ask him on what competent authority he bases his claim that the Court lacks jurisdiction.

A government’s legitimacy flows from the recognition of its standing by enough people within its jurisdiction. As such, its words become more than hot air and ink. Within Hawai’i, this passed from the Kingdom, to the Republic, and hence to the United States. Despite strongly argued opinions to the contrary, the vast majority have lived, learned, worked, fought, and died in a way suggesting their recognition that they live within the “State of Hawai’i”, a constituent part of the “United States”. I’m not claiming everyone is all smiles about the history, but that they recognize what is.

I can’t read the mind of the attorney questioning the Court’s jurisdiction, but if someone were representing me, I’d prefer they stick to the accepted case law, and not waste time on a long shot that the judge is a closet sovereignty advocate. But then, I’m not the pretender to the throne. The day that an entity styled the “Kingdom of Hawai’i” is real in the hearts and minds of enough Hawai’i residents that it can compel action based on its decisions, I’ll revisit my outlook.

Flag of Hawaii I don’t know if being ejected from her home was the cause of a Kihei woman’s correspondence regarding Hawaiian Sovereignty four months later, but I don’t imagine it improved her outlook on the US, State, or County legal apparatus. Regardless of her motivation, others sharing her viewpoint regarding the legal status of Hawai’i as a state within the United States frequently see print in letters to the Maui News. For those unfamiliar, the arguments wind down to these:

  • Hawai’i was an independent nation, with international recognition. (True)
  • In 1893, the monarch Lili’uokalani was illegally overthrown by a cabal lead by plantation owners of American lineage, assisted by the presence of 162 US sailors and Marines. (True)
  • The Republic of Hawai’i was illegal. (False. The staying power of a new government is a function of 1) exercising control over its claimed territory, and 2) recognition by major nations of the day. The Republic passed these tests.)
  • The US Annexation by Congressional resolution was illegal, and unConstitutional. (False. The Constitution doesn’t define how foreign territory is annexed. The Republic of Texas was also annexed by resolution.)
  • The US Annexation was illegal because indigenous Hawaiian people never consented through a plebiscite or referendum. (False. The point was immaterial, because the indigenous people had lost control of their country, arguably well before 1893.)
  • The 1940 and 1959 Statehood referendums were invalid, because they didn’t include independence as an option, as required by the UN Charter. (False. The UN was formed in 1945, and its Charter wasn’t amended to require ballots to include independence for dependent territory referendums until the early 1960’s.)
  • The 1940 and 1959 Statehood referendums were invalid, because newcomers and servicemen were allowed to vote. (False. Hawai’i was a self-governing territory within the US, therefore enjoyed the same voter eligibility rules as elsewhere in the country.)

My response, in a nutshell: One hundred six years ago, the U.S. did make possible the Republic of Hawaii. It was illegal (until it succeeded, by definition), it was treacherous, and two years later when the Republic’s own National Guard defeated the royalist insurgents at the Battle of Manoa, it was moot. The Kingdom was history, the Republic was free to negotiate their best deal with the U.S., and we find ourselves where we are today. There is no lawyering our way out of it. If someone wants sovereignty, limited or complete, they’re going to have to gain it through the US political system