Sunday, March 7, 2010

Faleomavaega Backs Hawaiian Apartheid

Apartheid (separateness) was a system of legal racial segregation in South Africa and, by extension, is a term applied now to any similar policy of racial separation. Last week Faleomavaega skipped the most important Washington meeting of the year for territories: the annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs. Co-chaired by the White House and the Department of the Interior, it brings together to discuss make federal issues, the territorial governor, delegates to Congress and senior White House and cabinet officials.

What was so important for Faleomavaega to miss the meeting? He chose, instead, to witness the final debate and vote on the latest attempt by Congress to create a separate sovereign government for Native Hawaiian people. Faleomavaega proudly announced publicly that he chose that floor activity over the IGIA meeting and issued a press release saying “the House took a historical step towards affording our Pacific brothers and sisters the opportunity to organize their own government similar to the First Americans and the indigenous Native Alaskans. This legislation is a culmination of 10 years of hard work…”

Since the House already had passed the measure before only to see it die in the Senate each time, the only reason he could have labeled it historic is because House Democrats added new provisions backed by left-wing radical Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) that made the legislation so onerous (and thought by many to be unconstitutional) that Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (D), heretofore a proponent, was forced to withdraw her support. That was enough to prompt nearly every Republican in the House to abandon the measure, which then passed on a party line vote.

Chances of Senate passage have dimmed considerably with the Democrats loss of their super majority so it is unclear what Faleomavaega gains by giving priority attention to the issue, which is well outside his jurisdiction. However, it must be remembered that while he was born in American Samoa, his family emigrated to Hawaii when he was at a young age, and his formative years actually were spent in the Aloha State. With schooling there and on the Mainland and army service, followed by work in the federal government and ultimately election to Congress, besides his early childhood Faleomavaega has lived in American Samoa only for the two years in the run up to his first unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1980 and then again the four years he served as lt. governor.

Some people question even counting the latter four years because he traveled frequently with the blessing of the governor, who found him an annoying thorn in his side. Indeed, he once was absent for nearly half a year during his term riding around the Pacific with the crew of the Hokule’a Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe. In fact, Faleomavaega does not even have his own home in American Samoa, so it is no wonder many believe his heart lies mainly with Hawaii.

His support for a race-based government in Hawaii is consistent with the racism he has displayed over the years. In short, as one person put it, “He hates haoles.” Born in the early 1940s, perhaps it was white racism he experienced in early in life that informs his world view today. Unlike Indian tribes that are governed in specific geographical areas with defined borders, Native Hawaiians are thoroughly mixed in the islands, making management of a separate government a difficult proposition. Given his past radicalism and devotion to lost causes, it is not hard to imagine that his support of the bill will carry no weight in the Senate and may marginally harm the cause.

So, Eni, do your friends a favor and keep on traveling. Easter vacation is coming up in a couple of weeks, so get your bags packed. Memo to the folks at home: don’t hold your breath waiting for him to appear here.

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