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Hawaiian Recognition - Advisory group to offer no opinion on Akaka bill

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP) 11-07

An advisory panel to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided against taking a position on the Native Hawaiian recognition bill.

The vote during November by the 17-member Hawaii State Advisory Committee was 8-6.

The measure named after Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, would give Native Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that of American Indians.

The Akaka bill passed the House during October, but would need Senate approval before being sent to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto, saying the legislation would divide Americans “along suspect lines of race and ethnicity.”

The committee backed the bill last year, but the federal commission opposed the measure before it was scuttled in the Senate.

This year, supporters were concerned the measure might fair poorly when it went before the newly reconfigured committee that has more members opposed to the Akaka bill.

Opponents of the bill say the legislation is race-based and would push special status for Native Hawaiians. Supporters include Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Hawaii’s Democratic congressional delegation.

The House version of the Akaka bill would give the 400,000 people nationwide of Native Hawaiian ancestry the right to form a governing entity that could negotiate with the state and federal governments over such issues as control of natural resources, lands and assets. The interior secretary would have to approve that governing body.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs applauded the vote.

“While we are pleased with the decision, (the) outcome is a mere set back to those who remain intent on destroying all programs that assist Native Hawaiians, and members of this network won’t give up,” OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said.

“Their motive is clear – they want to kill the federal recognition bill because its passage will disrupt their continuing legal battles against Native Hawaiians,” she said. “Passing the federal legislation is the best remedy for the possibilities of tomorrow that will benefit Native Hawaiians and Hawaii.”
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