Commentary – Poor Job Handling TMT Protestors

Governor Ige’s administration, and to a lesser extent, the County of Hawaii, are doing a poor job handling the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea. The governor’s proposed changes to the stewardship of Mauna Kea offended both the protesters and the individuals who’ve helped preserve this sensitive area.

TMT laserThe protesters  were mainly unhappy the governor reaffirmed the TMT’s legal right to begin construction, but there were other aspects of the revised stewardship plan the protesters were not pleased about. They were also unhappy the removal of ¼ of all the existing telescopes and imposing access restrictions to the summit area, among other issues

The governor’s stewardship changes also offended the individuals who’ve helped preserve Mauna Kea. It was  like a slap to the face when the governor stated the University of Hawaii and Department of Land and Natural Resources have been poor stewards of  Mauna Kea. There were issues with the stewardship of Mauna Kea in the past. However, there has been immeasurable improvements over the past 15 years. The execution of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan in 2010 was one of the highlights of these recent improvements.

Governor Ige’s administration also dropped the ball as far as dealing with these ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests. His administration has allowed these protesters to illegally encamp at Hale Pohaku for the past three months and obstruct access to the summit area. Yes, these protesters have a constitutionally protected right to protest, but they shouldn’t break the law in the process.

The elephant the room is the ongoing Hawaii sovereignty debate. The latter has Trojan horsed itself into the current debate over the Thirty Meter Telescope. The State and County of Hawaii are playing softball with these groups as a result. For example, the Hawaii County prosecutor is considering dropping criminal trespass charges against the first wave of 21 protesters in lieu of initiating  ho’oponopono with these individuals. This will entail holding discussions with the governor, the University of Hawaii, Thirty Meter Telescope, DLNR, etc.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has undergone a seven year public vetting process. These individuals had  ample opportunity express their concerns about this project during this time. In short, this is simply another stalling tactic that is being employed by the opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

As it stands now, the Thirty Meter Telescope has the legal right to initiate construction until the appellate courts say otherwise. I hope Governor Ige gets a backbone and  stops pandering to the interests of these protesters.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

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