What Do You Think?

… of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and Governor Ige’s response?

Since mid-July, thousands have blocked access to Mauna Kea, preventing the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Governor David Ige initially issued an emergency proclamation which he has since withdrawn. Fil-Am Voice staff asked members of Maui’s Filipino community “What Do You Think of TMT and Governor Ige’s response?”

Kim Asuncion: “TMT is more than just a building; it’s a large structure to be built on sacred land. Mauna a Wākea is not just a mountain; it’s sacred. Would you build something that is not sacred on land for a church? Native Hawaiians have had many wrongs done to them. Fast forward and the starting evolution of taking back what rightfully belongs to them: the bombing of Kaho‘olawe being stopped; the return of ‘Olelo Hawai‘i to schools; Lā‘au lapa‘au practiced at clinics. These are just small examples of what is happening. TMT is about the Hawaiian culture that was on the verge of disappearance. TMT is about fighting what they believe in—fighting for what is rightfully theirs. Governor Ige declared a state of emergency based on claims that violence, illegal substances and drinking were being done during the protest. Governor Ige did not know the kūpuna and those surrounding them were practicing kapu aloha—to act only in kindness, empathy and most importantly, love. There is no violence; drugs and alcohol are prohibited, including smoking/vaping. Governor Ige reacted without doing his due diligence. TMT is not a fight about science or evolution. It is not about a protest. It is about protecting. Protecting what’s rightfully theirs. Protecting Hawaiians. Protecting their home. Protecting Hawai‘i. Do I support the building of TMT. NO. Do I support Governor Ige in his state of emergency. NO.”

Rizamay Basig: “For years we have lived here in the islands of Hawai‘i, it was a peaceful place. No fighting, violence or any major impact. Ever since the TMT issue started, it led to more protests. I believe the trouble our fellow citizens has to encounter is very unsettling. We should be the ones to truly help them and stand up to one another despite what others have to say. No government should be allowed to destroy our sacred place and let our Native Hawaiians suffer. Even though we weren’t born in the Hawaiian islands or even speak their language, we should have the courage to always support them.”

Jeny Bissell: “Yes to TMT if it helps find a cure for cancer, heart disease, other chronic health conditions and poverty that is killing people. No to TMT, invest instead on affordable housing, road repair and maintenance, expansion and diversification of agriculture, fix the healthcare and educational system of care so Hawai‘i’s people can live, thrive and grow.”

Dr. Virginia “Virgie” Cantorna: “I am in favor of supporting the Hawai‘i community in not further desecrating Mauna Kea. This majestic mountain is the equivalent of what the kanaka maoli consider sacred space, their church. Would people allow an 18-story high telescope covering almost 1.5 acres on Mount Fuji, Japan or near the Vatican City? I am not against the TMT nor the science of astronomy. I just think the TMT should not be added to the thirteen that are already there.”

Sheena Garo: “I think TMT is a waste of time, money, and disrespectful towards the Hawaiian people and their culture. While it is true the construction of TMT can open a new world of astronomy by looking deeper into space, I believe TMT needs to focus on maintaining the current telescopes on Mauna Kea instead of trying to build another telescope. The leaks and spills by the current telescopes on Mauna Kea could impact the Big Island’s water supply. This should be addressed before even attempting to construct another telescope. I believe maintaining and updating equipment on TMT’s current telescope on Mauna Kea is the first answer to TMT’s ongoing questions on astronomy. I believe Governor Ige’s approach to issue an emergency proclamation that has since been withdrawn has ruined his reputation as Hawai‘i’s governor and most importantly, his connection with the people of Hawai‘i.”

Antonio V. Ramil: “The pioneer Polynesians who discovered and first settled on the Hawaiian islands were daring seafarers, braving the vast ocean, sailing beyond the horizon to an unknown land. Undoubtedly, they prepared themselves physically and mentally fit for the journey, with knowledge of the ways of sea and wind, and directions from the stars. Also, they must have been meticulous in picking the finest trees growing in their home island which they cut down to build seaworthy canoes or other sailing vessels—serving as their home for days and weeks ahead—needed in their bold undertaking. To top it all, I am enthralled by a timeless legend that the early settlers of Hawai‘i handed down for those who would come after them. It’s about the demi-god Maui, a real giant of their race, who, as depicted in one artwork that’s stuck in my mind, stood straddled atop the tallest mountains, a mighty figure, with rope in hand and snared the sun in its daily sojourn in the sky above, to slow it down in its passage so that people on earth would have longer days to enjoy the daylight. I see the demi-god Maui as a projection by Hawai‘i’s ancient settlers of how they defined themselves, and of their hope for those who would come after them—bold in venturing into the future, making use of the forces and elements of nature, in a way that would benefit all mankind. I see the TMT Project atop Mauna Kea as honoring and advancing the legacy of the island pioneers—this time, it’s about venturing into the farthest reaches of outer space. The Project has gone through a remarkably lengthy, thorough and fair process of public discussions for more than 10 years. It has gone through a contested case proceeding. It has duly come before the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court, and the court has issued the decision for the construction of the project to proceed. Reports have shown that 80 percent of Hawai‘i’s people support the project. Construction must proceed without any further delay.”

J.R. William Kalani Regalado: “I believe TMT has its pros and cons. It’s really hard to support both sides but I do believe that Mauna Kea is a sacred land for our Hawaiian families and we should respect that. How could Ige make the emergency proclamation saying it was not safe when he did not go to the mauna until later? There was no violence or litter but everyone was taking care of each other and educating those visiting the mauna. For him to make that proclamation was just a waste of time.”

Michelle Santos: “I feel the governor was too quick in issuing the Proclamation. He should have gone to the mountain to speak to the leaders to get a better understanding of the issue. I applaud those who continue to fight for what they believe is right, however I also believe in science and the importance of the telescope. But they should work on the existing telescopes rather than building a new one. If they can prove to me this telescope will help to cure diseases, I may change my position.”

Joy Nina Tabon: “What people don’t realize is that TMT isn’t a new issue. It’s been an issue for the past 10 years and although TMT is at the forefront of what the kia‘i are standing for on the mauna, the hurt and oppression goes much deeper. I don’t think Governor Ige understands this isn’t just about a telescope. It’s about the basic rights of the kanaka maoli being ignored for the sake of everyone else but the people who have a right to the very land we live on. We often forget Hawai‘i was stolen and overtaken without a trace of remorse. You don’t have to have Hawaiian blood to understand the indigenous people of Hawai‘i should have rights to their land and beliefs, to embrace their culture, or to simply respect what they are standing for. Governor Ige’s response to the movement on the mauna is utterly disrespectful and selfish. TMT really isn’t just what people should be focusing on but rather that the voices of indigenous Hawaiian people and their families are trying to be silenced. No more. Kū kia‘i mauna.”