Monday, August 18, 2008
The state has apologized to leprosy patients exiled to Kalaupapa with the reading of a resolution approved by the state Legislature.
AT long last, the state has apologized for the horrendous, century-long exile of thousands of leprosy patients to a secluded peninsula on Molokai. A resolution approved by this year's Legislature was read to former patients last week, and Congress should follow with enactment of a bill authorizing a monument to be placed at Kalaupapa.
State Sen. J. Kalani English read aloud the resolution, which acknowledged the banishment of patients of leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, from 1866 to 1969, when the forced exile came to an end. Many of the patients remained on the peninsula, which had become their home.
As the resolution noted, mothers and fathers were forced to surrender their children diagnosed with leprosy to Kalaupapa, while children born to parents at Kalaupapa were taken away at birth and sent to other relatives or to orphanages. Many parental relationships were broken forever.
Eight thousand patients were exiled to the peninsula, and federal legislation would allow a monument bearing their names to be placed at Kalaupapa, which Congress established as a national historical park in 1980. In late 2006, the House approved authorization of the monument proposed by then-Rep. Ed Case, and it approved it again this February under the sponsorship of his successor, Rep. Mazie Hirono. A similar bill introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka was endorsed by a Senate committee in May and advanced to the full Senate, which should give its approval by the end of this year.
Ka 'Ohana O Kalaupapa, a nonprofit organization of patient-residents, has been collecting the 8,000 patients' names from state archives for placement on the memorial. Federal and/or state funds are likely to be needed to pay for the memorial once the cost has been determined.
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