Hawai’i Statehood and the APEC investment regime

August 19, 2011
By

Queen Lili’uokalani

Two years ago, in 2009, Hawai’i sovereignty rights and independence advocates made a public stand in opposition to Hawai’i Statehood. What Statehood represented was the forced or unwitting coercion of Hawaiians to accept statehood by the United States as the legitimate form of governance without receiving any understanding of what alternatives were afforded through the UN as a result of Chapter XI, Article 73 of the UN Charter, the Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories.  As the state continues to assert that 94% of  the citizenry voted for statehood, we know that the real numbers for eligible voters supporting statehood were closer to 36%.

Two generations earlier, in 1893, the Kingdom of Hawai’i, was usurped through coercion of threats.  Queen Lili’uokalani signed her unofficial title–her married name (Lili’uokalani Dominis) to the document presented her by the white oligarchy businessmen of Hawai’i, calling themselves the Republic of Hawai’i– and she stepped down to avoid bloodshed.  Queen Lili’uokalani and most of Hawai’i believed that the U.S. would restore the throne, since after all, Hawai’i held treaties and was recognized by the family of European nations as a sovereign state. Earlier in 1843, when a British captain had attempted to claim Hawai’i for England, British Admiral Thomas formally apologized to King Kamehameha III and he was restored to the throne.

When it was learned, however, that in 1897, the U.S. had no intention of restoring Lili’uokalani to the throne and had begun the process of annexing Hawai’i, a great outpouring of resistance occurred, including a historical record of signatures called the Ku’e Petitions of which 21,000 0f the 40,000 total population of native Hawaiians signed their vote in opposition to U.S. annexation.  In part, as a result of these petitions Hawaii was never formally annexed and it became a territory only as a result of an unimpressive Joint Resolution rather than the required ratification of a treaty by a 2/3rd Senate majority.

As a result of two improper and surreptitious processes that do not qualify for either annexation or statehood, our struggles for independence have grown legal and moral influence, both at home and abroad.

As we consider the amount of investment that occurred shortly afer statehood in 1959, by US and foreign developers, these investments created long-term negative effects upon the people and the island’s natural resources.  Hawai’i, having to accept U.S. constitutional law, was unable to protect itself from the rampant development and the massive migration of new settlers.  Partly, as a result of these changing land investments, many native Hawaiians have had little choice but to move to the continental U.S, as jobs and housing became scarce and foreign settlers swooped up available housing.

With the APEC forum, the state of Hawai’i anticipates more investment, and it has already signed into law new deregulations, like ACT 55, over the management of our land and resources, and extended leases to near lifetime lengths. Also, with more investment, developers have already negotiated for more housing development on Hawai’i ag-lands, perpetuating further strain on our limited resources, food and water security and infrastructure.  Invariably, this will include more disparate housing conditions as competition for our limited housing capacity will drive up our already inflated cost of living.

APEC is a tsunami of privatization descending across the Pacific, this time not led only by the United States, but coming from the directions of all the larger economic powers– the private, international investment regime.

Led by large transnational banks and financial institutions, the same deregulated investment packages that created the housing bubble, are pushing for state-wide deregulations for the benefit of new international investments in all trade sectors.  By further displacing people from their lands and resources,  industries profit from further economic and social disparities through privatization in health, housing, prisons, security, education, etc.  What should be the responsibility of the state is now being pawned off to the private investment regime.

Since the mid-1990s, but more formally after 9-11, there has been a transnational movement to privatize resources worldwide throughout a wide range of trade sectors.  This relentless assault by transnational investment reduces government regulations that traditionally protect labor rights and our environment and the traditional rights of native peoples.

This consolidation of transnational corporate power over governments may not be the same kind of political coup that we are used to thinking about when we think about the annexation or statehood illegitimacies, but in these new supra national courts—courts beyond national jurisdictions—like the WTO in Geneva, transnational regimes use financial instruments to bankrupt governments by entrenching debt relief programs like structural adjustment loans that exploit the resources of the state in return.

Our rights as indigenous peoples and advocates for the indigenous stewardship of land and resources are being further alienated as a result of this new economic system.  At the very least, up until the 1980s. we could claim that the role of government was invested in the security of our land, peoples and resources.  Now, transnational investment regimes prioritize stakeholder interests before human and environmental considerations.

Pacific Islanders are at a tremendous disadvantage as we have been alienated from each other for far too long, unable to organize an indigenous regional partnership that will allow us to steward our resources and manage our trade and labor in the global market.  This has stunted Pacific Island communities and created a dependency on Development Aid and forced structural adjustment programs by international organizations to pursue the disadvantageous free-market/ free-trade neo-liberal agenda onto our peoples and resources.

Let us hope that we can come together with a Pacific-wide Ku’e Petition, to voice our opposition to this new hegemony.

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