Cultural practitioners and activists are celebrating another small victory in their battle to stop the construction of the $1.4billion thirty meter telescope atop Maunakea – which is arguably the world’s premier astronomical viewing location but considered by many Hawaiians a sacred site and spiritual temple. The tension between these two positions has created rifts in the Hawaiian and astronomy communities and has resulted in multiple standoffs atop the mountain – with protestors successfully blocking two attempts by construction crews to ascend the summit.
News last week that the TMT corporation would once again resume construction activities prompted the filing of an emergency motion in a legal case that is challenging the approval process that granted the construction permit for the telescope. The case is currently awaiting a decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court and the court granted the motion to stay construction activities until December 2.
Nāiwi Wurdeman, attorney for the Maunakea Hui said, “Itʻs not something that they grant very often. I think because we have already had the oral arguments in this case, the court is well aware of the facts, they’re well aware of the issues and I think it made it an easier determination for them to make, being fully aware of everything that’s before them. So we’re very happy.”
TMT officials released the following statement after the ruling:
“We respect the Court decision and we will stand down between now and December 2. The Supreme Court’s decision will give all parties involved in the appeal sufficient time to respond to the motion.”
News of the ruling came as protestors from across the state were gathering atop Maunakea in preparation for another large-scale standoff the following morning.
Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, a protector of Maunakea explained, “ʻAʻole au mahalo ana i ka ʻaha hoʻokolokolo. He hoʻomaikaʻi kēia i ko lākou ʻauamo i ke kuleana. Mahalo au i ke kanaka, mahalo au I ka lāhui, mahalo au i ke kanaka e ʻōlelo ʻaʻole au ʻae i kēia hewa, ʻaʻole au e ʻae i kēia hana hoʻohaumia. ʻAʻole au ʻae i kēia hoʻoluku ʻana i ko kākou mauna, i ko kākou moʻolelo, i ko kākou ʻano kanaka. ʻAʻole e ʻae ʻia. A ʻo ia ke kumu inā ʻaʻohe kanaka ma ʻaneʻi, inā ʻaʻole pono ka, ka state mā, ka mokuʻāina mā pono e noʻonoʻo a hopohopo no ke kūpaʻa ʻana o ke kanaka, ʻaʻole loaʻa kēia hoʻoholo ʻana. No laila like me kaʻu, hoʻomaikaʻi i ka ʻaha hoʻokolokolo, mahalo i ka poʻe kānaka.”
“I am congratulating the Supreme Court for finally doing their job, but I am thanking the people, those who have stood up here and refused the injustice, refused the desecration of this mountain, of our stories, of our identity. If they were not here fighting everyday, none of this would be possible. So I am congratulating the supreme court but I am thanking the people.”
Wurdeman said, “It’s very encouraging, especially over the last year the amount of awareness that has spread, not only through Hawaiʻi but also throughout the world. And it wouldn’t have spread this way, the awareness wouldn’t have gotten out there without everyone’s efforts and so, you know, I think everyone doing their part is all important to get that awareness out there.”
The pending Court decision in this legal case will have a major impact on the fate of the telescope, but protestors say they will continue to stand vigil on Maunakea in opposition of the project.
It wasn’t a “small” victory. Rumors indicate that the so-called “state” was planning to arrest up to 500 Protectors on this go round. That would have been major. There is no good guess where these escalations may go. Will the “state” plan eventually to take it to the thousands? And what if the arrestees decide not to be bailed out? Will the “state” be prepared to eventually house and feed thousands? And what if these thousands all choose to go to trial? Will the court system be prepared to handle the volume? Should the “state” build more jails? Where this may end – nobody knows. And “the people” (from what I have heard) will NOT be backing down. However, something must be wrong with the “state’s” strategies and policies – as “the people” keep on accumulating a string of victories while the “state” keeps losing (even after sticking the taxpayers wmillions in legal fees).