The Molokai Times
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
By David Lichtenstein
State Sen. Kalani English offered a heartfelt apology on behalf of the State of Hawaii to the people of Kalaupapa last Tuesday for the years of harsh treatment and forcible confinement on the peninsula.
"We're sorry. We're sorry for the treatment, we're sorry for the suffering," said English. "You know you are special to the state and to me personally and it is time we recognize that."
For Kalaupapa resident Elroy "Makia" Malo that wasn't enough.
"I am here because I wanted the document read," said Malo, 73, referring to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 208. "I want someone to read it to me at my brother's grave and the [grave's of the] other kids I grew up with."
English made his apology at the beginning of the regular monthly Kalaupapa community meeting. Malo's request came toward the end of the meeting after issues concerning recycling, unexploded military ordinance, airport projects and poor phone service had already been covered.
But English was happy to oblige Malo and read the two-and-a-half page resolution, dated April 29, 2008.
"I'm sorry I have come late since the resolution has passed," said English. "Sometimes we act irrationally and the government has done that. From 1948 to 1969 there was no real reason to keep you isolated, it was the government being afraid, people not understanding."
Hansen's disease patients were first brought to Kalaupapa in 1866 in an effort to control its spread. Drugs to control the disease were discovered in the 1940s and the patients were allowed to leave in 1969. Many patients chose to stay in Kalaupapa since it was the only home they knew.
"We are very grateful for you to come here and give us this resolution," said Kalaupapa resident Gloria Marks after the reading. "I'd just like to say this is way overdue and thank you."
Marks expressed her regret that her brother-in-law Paul Harada, who had sought a state apology, was not there to hear the resolution. He died Jan. 4. "I'm sorry he is not here to receive this, but his wife is here and I'm sure she is very thankful," said Marks.
In other business at the meeting, a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers made a presentation concerning unexploded military ordinance that still sits behind the lighthouse toward eastern point of peninsula.
"I've never heard of this before," said Malo. "This is goddamn outrageous. There should be more than an apology for this and for the people of Hawaii."
The Army Corps representative told the audience that two items have been found so far, a 13-pound practice bomb and a three-pound practice bomb. The corps' instructions to the public upon finding ordinance: recognize, retreat and report.
National Parks Service Superintendent for Kalaupapa, Stephen Prokop, provided an update on the painting and restoration of St. Philomena Church, a church founded by Father Damien. The funding has been secured and the work will be completed by February 2009, said Prokop. This will be around the time the Vatican is expected to announce the date for Father Damien's canonization in the late spring or early summer of 2009.
Prokop also reminded the community that the target date for closing the landfill is January 2009. Limited recycling is encouraged during the transition.
"We can't handle everything," said Prokop. So far the Department of Health has phased out the use of paper plates and Styrofoam containers. Maintenance division uses non-toxic cleaning products now and they have reduced 600 catalogue subscriptions to cut down on junk mail.
Sen. English discussed the problems with reliability with airline and phone service on Kalaupapa.
English said he has received letters notifying him that scheduled Pacific Wings flights have not flown.
Apparently this has been an ongoing problem with Pacific Wings. The airlines recently renewed its federal contract to serve Kalaupapa by not requesting a reimbursement. Since Pacific Wings is the existing air provider and were not asking for subsidies, the renewal was granted.
English recommended that all complaints go directly to the U.S. Department of Transportation and to U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono's office. Members of the community commented about the problems. "This is why you need to monitor their comings and goings," said English.
English also discussed what he called the "decreasing quality" facing phone service customers. Phone service was recently purchased by the Carlysle Group, said English, and so far they have "made mistakes." English reassured the audience that it will improve over times.
Representatives from the state airport authority also discussed the status of Kalaupapa airport improvements. A perimeter fencing project budgeted at $1.5-$2 million is in the design phase. Three other projects - runway improvements, striping and signage - are expected to be completed by the end of September.
It was also reported that a planned fire station for the airport will not be built. The Federal Aviation Administration rules have changed so that a fire station is no longer required at the Kalaupapa airport, said the state airport authority representative.
Original article URL: http://www.molokaitimes.com/articles/881911550.asp