American Safari Cruises agrees to postpone visits

A packed Mitchell Pau'ole Center brought out a wide range of opinions and emotions concerned about the direction of Molokai's visitor industry.

Lengthy meeting on cruise yacht issue leads to plans for community-oriented conflict resolution

Peacemakers and warriors alike gathered at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center last night in an attempt to find a resolution concerning the American Safarai Cruise boat offering cultural tours of Molokai.

Principal and CEO of ASC Dan Blanchard, after hearing the thoughtful and impassioned comments on both sides of this issue, made a decision today in the hopes of reaching a resolution with the community.

“I want to express my sincere appreciation for the overwhelming participation in last night’s community meeting,” Blanchard wrote in a statement. “It is our intention to find a workable solution to this situation. We are working with members of the community to further this goal. In this effort, we have elected to postpone the Safari Explorer’s arrival in Molokai. The yacht will not visit this Friday and Saturday as planned. We are committed to further dialogue and will respectfully work with leaders in the community.”

Acting as the liaison between ASC and the Molokai community, Lawrence Aki — the cultural practitioner offering guided tours of Halawa Valley to the visitors — called last night’s meeting to order and served as mediator. Aki began by introducing Blanchard to the packed, standing-room-only audience.

Blanchard presented a slideshow on his “green, eco-friendly” tours of no more than 36 people. He emphasized the use of recyclable products and the culturally sensitive aspects of the tours. The visitors will be escorted by local people at all times. All services and food products will be provided by the 22 local businesses he has spoken with over the past six years in preparation for the tours.

The 145-foot Safari Explorer first docked at Kaunakakai Harbor on Oct. 30 for its two-day visit and has returned two more times since. The most recent visit on Nov. 26 was blocked by protesters on small vessels and surfboards who prevented the boat from entering the harbor. The tour raised the ire of the protesters by returning the next day and attempting to visit Halawa. However, the trip was shortened because of a tree blocking the highway.

Since the protests began, ASC has been accused of bypassing local protocol and never properly asking permission to bring its tours to Molokai. When this was raised, Aki asked, “what is the outline of the process?” Without a clear answer, Aki then invited the kupuna to be allowed to speak first.

Opu’ulani Albino, representative of ‘Aha Ki’ole Molokai, presents the advisory group's position on ASC tours. She is flanked by Lawrence Aki, left, and ASC Principal Dan Blanchard.

‘Aha Ki’ole offers facilitation

Opu’ulani Albino, a kumu at the Hawaiian language immersion school at Kualapu’u Elementary, spoke as a representative of ‘Aha Ki’ole Molokai. Kumu Opu’ulani serves as the culture and arts representative on Molokai for this statewide advisory group.

“From the beginning, we (the ‘Aha Ki’ole) were never contacted,” said Opu’ulani. “The process is you come to the community and you hear them … you communicate with transparency.”

After explaining the ‘Aha Ki’ole’s role as resource managers following traditional Hawaiian practices, Opu’ulani read a statement from Kamalu Poepoe, the alaka’i po’o (second in charge) for ‘Aha Ki’ole Molokai. Poepoe, as well as Vanda Hanakahi, po’o (head) of ‘Aha Ki’ole Molokai, were unable to attend the meeting.

The statement emphasizes the ‘Aha’s role in gaining a community concensus on this issue through a widely distributed survey. On the cruise boat issue, the ‘Aha claims “it has been, and continues to be, fair and unbiased.”

According to the statement, the survey has found that, “a large majority (are) in agreement against the initiation of the cruise tour industry.”

But, the statement continues, “our structure calls for more that just collecting island mana’o. In our mission to protect and preserve resources, we are an advisory council that may be able to help facilitate discussion with those community members who feel that the resources may be threatened by unchecked growth as well as those who feel we need economic opportunity.”

Protester Walter Ritte describes himself as an "aloha 'aina warrior" to the audience. Behind him is Dan Blanchard and Teri Waros, owner of Kalele Bookstore and supporter of the ASC tours.

Protesters speak out

Other kupuna speakers offered conciliation toward these tours and made pleas for a peaceful process. Various kupuna also asked for the community to be involved in its own destiny.

One kupuna who refused to offer a diplomatic approach was protest organizer Walter Ritte.

“You just don’t get it,” said the 67 year-old Ritte. “The protesters are here for one reason — aloha ‘aina. We are not peacemakers, we are aloha ‘aina warriors!”

Ritte explained that he and his soldiers are not opposed to the cruise ship per se, just the failure of ASC to include the community in this decision. “We are not going to allow you to come here without listening. As the indigineous people of this island we demand participation and consent.”

Ritte even compared this situation to the plight of indigineous people worldwide. “If we don’t participate we have no control. Who’s going to say you can’t bring six more boats? If we can’t control 38 (visitors) how can we control 3,800? … we got to start now!”

Ritte offered a “truce” if the Safari Explorer agreed to not come to Kaunakakai on Friday as scheduled. The question of whether or not the boat would return this weekend was reiterated by Ritte’s son Kalaniua and his wife Loretta. Aki, responding on behalf of Blanchard, said that all comments would be considered and a decision would be issued today (Thursday).

Kanoho Helm, another local activist who helped organize the protests against Big Wind projects on Molokai, spoke as a peacemaker. “I choose to take a neutral view on this,” he said. “The pathway to righteousness is in conflict resolution, let’s come together.”

Limits of the political process

Lori Buchanan, a two-term member of the Molokai Planning Commission — the only Maui County political body that meets on Molokai — spoke about the cruise boat in relation to state and county laws. While holding the recently issued Final Environmental Assessment Draft firmly in hand, Buchanan explained how the $5 million Kaunakakai Harbor improvement project, now being conducted by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, will only make it easier for commercial vessels such as the Safari Explorer to come to Molokai.

Cora Schnackenberg, secretary of the 'Aha Ki'ole Molokai, expresses her outrage at a process that, she feels, did not include the full community.

Buchanan explained how neither the state Department of Transportation nor the DLNR have the authority to place controls on this cruise yacht as long as the harbor master (who is a state employee under both the DOT and the DLNR) approves it. She asks why this company never approached the MoPC, which is authorized to approve all Special Management Area requests. She also asks why the DOT and the DLNR never put this issue before the MoPC. “If we can’t depend on the DOT and DLNR who can we depend on?”

“All of this should have been done before parking your hotel in the harbor,” said Buchanan. “The bottom line, it’s not about what Molokai wants, it’s what we can control.” In addressing Blanchard, she said, “I don’t know how we’re going to stop you or work with you, the ball is in your court.”

Other concerns

Other speakers expressed concerns about ASC disposing its garbage on Molokai.

Several speakers addressed the tone and the attitude of protesters. Molokai resident Chevy Levasa said threats have been made to people and businesses that support the ASC tours. She mentioned Teri Waros, a supporter of the tours and owner of Kalele Bookstore, as one of those who has been threatened. “We don’t need to go to that level,” said Levasa.

Clare Mawae, owner of Molokai Outdoors, the vendor providing ground transportation to ASC, spoke about the amount of “racism and hatred” she has encountered online as a result of her support. As an 18-year resident of Molokai who has raised her three children here, Mawae said, “I believe there’s a solution to all this. We need to work together as a community.”


25 Responses

  1. I would appreciate that your article be more balanced. You did not comment on the people who support the boat and how people are having a hard time surviving in these economic times in our community.
    Also, that the Aha Kiole is not a government organization and the Bill that was introduced to our Hawaii legislature was VETO by the Governor of Hawaii July 12, 2011.There is NO process in place as was asked over and over again what is the PROCESS.No answers were given.
    No one talkes about the issues at hand, 17% unemployment, Drugs are on the rise and domestic violence is up and limited job opportunities.May I make a suggestion that you should do a story on why that is happenning here in our commuity.

    • Agreed, ‘Aha Ki’ole does not have governmental authority and only serves to advise (if and when the governor’s veto is overridden). But maybe with the community’s support, the ‘Aha can step forward and show true leadership by mediating a win-win solution and creating the groundwork for a REAL (i.e. – democratic and Hawaiian) process. As Zeke from Mayor Arakawa’s office said last night (and I’m wildly paraphrasing here), the modern world is a changing and shifting place and we need to learn to keep up with it while still maintaining the things about Molokai that make it strong.
      Unemployment and drugs are very serious issues and it sounds like you could write an interesting opinion piece about how they impact Molokai. It must be signed with your full and real name to be published, of course.

      • If Aha Ki’ole is to truly be representative and not simply a rubber stamp for Walter’s heavy handed viewpoint, it should get its so-called surveys out of the native Hawaiian offices and into public places where all residents can feel comfortable about participating. In fact, they need to set up some sort of third party to collect and collate the input so that native Hawaiian interests do not control the result. If they continue to make it a mainly native Hawaiian process, it has NO validity for the larger community.

        As for these meetings, been there, done that. They serve as a demonstration of the same old intimidation tactics that have gone on here for years. There can be no democratic result in that kind of atmosphere. The outcome is dominated by those who shout the loudest and have the most bullies on their side of the meeting.

      • I will think about it.

  2. From a long line of FB posting here…
    Finding the Balance
    Hey …..
    a totally emotional day after pouring my heart out last night and then hearing the aching hearts today….What does happen next???………?
    That is the big question…..Cruise ships will put me out of business that is for sure as I am a little biddy operator and for sure the big guys will come in………
    For this situation this boat is perfect for me and so many without changing infrastructure and many other things…….Time to talk and my belief is to enforce a community tourism plan that involves different sectors of the community in putting the stamp on the plan…….
    It is not easy in finding the balance..but nothing worth fighting for is easy…….However we still need to focus on the positive elements and keep moving forward….
    If we all live in fear, then what??????? ….One of my drivers wants to send out a petition to all of the businesses for community to sighn because he is all messed up without this paycheck……
    Last night I talked about the colour of the skin, and all of that and so many other things with no idea what was coming next out of my mouth..I still believe in solutions and knowing that apologies from both sides with actions is the step in the right direction……….
    I trust this company and many others do….BUT if we are to trust then as a community we also need to draw up the guidelines which I and others must abide by…..
    Molokai is special and I love this island…tried to leave 6 times…but kept getting hold back….I also see that there are so many unheard voices not wanting to get involved because of the hard core radical approaches…………
    As I said last night I know I am not from here…and this was not by choice…just happened….no idea how and still have no idea why I am here…..Anyway the unheard voices should step forward…and guidelines need to be set in place…….from what I understood from the Molokai Hawaiians involved with the planning of the boat coming in….THERE WAS NO PROTOCOL SET IN PLACE..…
    There was No community meeting BECAUSE no one really shows up except for the hard core groups and who wants to waste their time in being shouted down….That is what I understood and hearing why Carl does not go to meetings, shows a valid point on why no one goes…….BUT last night there were close to 300 people on all sides of the line and many in the middle…Today I heard many went from the middle to supporting the boat…after hearing the testimonies…
    I was amazed on the turnout and I was not the only one……

    • “tried to leave 6 times”

      sistah, please don’t make it 7 cause that would leave a huge hole in an island that already appears to be taking on water.

      • To all those 300+ people who attended this meeting concerning ASC operation on Molokai. I say hang on, and allow the dialog to continue, which is necessary at this time. If there is anything that I personally got from this meeting is that there are many voices on Molokai and not just one. Yet all voices must be heard even those who most people feel are radical, sometimes rude and confrontational.

        I ask from the people of Molokai to move with humbleness, humility, and patience within themselves. At the same time be counted and heard that is even more important. One of the ways to assure you are being heard is to write directly to your legislators on all level of government. We need to make them accountable as well. We ourselves would like to hear from you. As well as write to the organizations whom you disagree with by stating your reasons as why you disagree, but be sure to cc your email/letter to all your legislators and us. This would assure so no one can sweep it under the table or throw it in the trash cans to ignore you.

        Most people say they don’t want to come to these public meetings because it is the same old thing. People being threaten, yelled at, also being falsely accused. That in it’s self is why you need to be counted.

        Let us look for solutions with grace, be heard, and be counted. Write me directly, and or cc me any of your communications if you wish

      • Thanks……we shall see… least we are in the Christmas season…so will keep moving forward….smile and be thankful for what my children and I have..

  3. Lawrence, you make an excellent point: we all need to be counted. How do you do that in an atmosphere of intimidation and fear? This is why we have government sponsored elections with careful provision of confidentiality and impartiality. This is something that the native Hawaiian organizations need to address in an honest and open way if they wish to have true legitimacy in the larger society. While they may wish to control the result, it is not in their long term interest to set up a regime of racially exclusive domination. That will surely fail in the long term.

    • Not sure if we can have a proper vote…too much bias and no one to will take forever to hear everyone’s voice……and even then who will actually vote? Should have taken a vote at the meeting when there were many voices in support of the boat..

      I wish everyone would stop referring the boat to a “cruise ship”…..or a floating hotel…..the hotel could not support the 36 passengers and crew anyway as there would be protests on them taking up all the rooms!!

      Lawrence can you post for everyone to see the names and addresses of who to write to? I know one of my drivers wants to start a petition around town and I said I will help with that…

      Anyway I think that by the boat not coming in this time is a good thing in that no one can say we never tried and two the hard part is that many will feel the pain of paying their bills…..Perhaps then the reality will then set in…and perhaps then those that are unsure will begin to feel what it is like for those that are struggling to survive on Molokai…

      On the bright side it is a beautiful day on Molokai..:)


    Molokai needs to establish a Neighborhood Board Council which can serve as a ‘established protocol’ venue for the island. An approval Process needs to be established BEFORE unannounced events, like this cruise ship has well documented in its UN ANNOUNCED visits.

    The Neighborhood Board is a well documented avenue in which all entities, public, private, business, can approach a BROAD spectrum of Molokai’s citizen panel. BROAD is the word that needs to be stressed.

    Study the neighborhood board council model on Oahu. The council either gives a vote of confidence, or not. That is all, at least

    Obviously the Aha Kiele isnt working, nor do i think it wants to work in sunlight.

    The planning commission is the only method presently, however that does not let business as the cruise ship come to present their plan.

    Currently Molokai has self appointed people that come out contending that they are the people that are ‘in charge’.

    Presently Walter is the only one that comes out. However charged, as he is, he is passionate about protecting the land, both spiritually and physically.

    Without his intervention, we would be Waikiki already.

    So, Molokai needs to Start the process now.

    Atleast its a medium, that process would not provide all the rhetoric, contention, and shibai that is floating around Molokai in the cocoNOT wireless.

    Presently everything coming across is NO. There must be a medium, but when businesses, cruises, helicopter tours, and all others that will come, there will be at least a recognized entity, that can send a message. Either Molokai Approves of the activity or NOT. Its that simple. That message has to be delivered on a Letterhead, not the cocoNOT wireless.

    Right now, Molokai looks like a bunch of ignorant people that dont want change.

    That is DEFINITELY is not the case. HOWEVER that is how the press, and the news have portrayed Molokai constantly.

    Molokai is the last stand and an excellent example on how one can control their outcomes.

    Molokai needs to change our image. NOW

    We need to start a Panel that all can come and this panel can act as a clearing house for ALL that will come to Molokai, even within. Activities, actions, and visitor activity need to be controlled. We dont have to be told what to do. We need to control the outcomes, before any activity comes to Molokai.

    • So when shall we start..Carl Brito is for it…I am for it..and many others are for it…..

      Shall we get flyers up and get a public meeting going so that we can set this up…


      Clare Mawae

  5. Curtis has a fine idea which I know would have good support, if and only if it can be shown to work in the daylight. Shady, obscure elections announced the day they occur and “surveys” that deliberately focus on a single demographic will immediately derail it.

    Many of us have the conviction that the current “powers that be” do not want a truly open and democratic forum because they fear the true will of the majority won’t support their hard line. Whatever body accomplishes this will have to reach out to the entire island, east to west and north to south to establish its credibility and legitimacy. It is a difficult and complex task but it is possible.

    It would be quite a dangerous precedent for ASC to make an agreement with any of the current players, as it would look as though they knuckled under to private extortion and any other group could come along and make their independent demands which may not agree with Aha Ki’ole or Walter’s army’s terms of surrender.

    A truly open and democratic “process” would be a refreshing change which would entice many of us silent folks to come out in support, even if we disagree with the outcome…as we must do with the current political climate in this country. Where do we sign up?

    • Well I am just throwing the idea out and so far others too are throwing the idea out……so it appears many are wanting this when I talk to the silent voices on the streets, and others and talking about it as the Aha Kiole do not represent the island….Their actions have shown that with their behaviour at the last protest…

      The Aha Kiole have a lot of inhouse cleaning to do…….

      So we need ideas, feedback on how to start the process where first the idea is put our and then elections take place in nominating a board from all parts of the island and all parts of commerce, education, health, county, state, hard core activists, and the works..It has to be fair and cover the whole community where no one feels intimidated….

      People including those Hawaiians that go back generations are sick and tired of the strong arm tactic…

  6. Great Manao from all of you. This is a start and the talks should continue in this positive manner. Brainstorming in a civil manner and with heart…

    • Well this council may be forming faster than any of us can think if I am hearing it rightly…It will not surprise me if a meeting will be called really soon…..

  7. hi,

    i’m kfc.

    i am self-appointed representative of all the free run chickens on moloka’i and we’re interested in joining your new group that will chart the way forward for this beautiful island we all love.

    we cheeckens deserve to be heard like everyone else because there’s not many things on island that say you’ve “arrived” in paradise more than seeing all my braddahs and seestahs running wild in the streets of k’kai.

    please, we have but this one simple request- when our new group takes to posting fliers at the various points around this aina, please make certain to tack one up low enough to the ground so me and my flightless kine can read um.

    kfc (aka: kaunakakai’s funky chicken)

    • yeah, and btw, i had “steve” post that previous message for me on themolokainews because my little chicken feet won’t actually work the touch screen keypad on the new apple ipad i just bought.

      who’d have known?


  8. finding the balance-

    sounds like the meeting stirred many of the silent, and that can definitely be a huge positive. go for it.

    i know you’re a sharp kanemitsu cookie and won’t allow the formation of this much needed group to delay action on the tour boat.

    it’s my hope that within days (like 3-5) the issues can be resolved and the good-hearted hardworking people who are part of this can go back to work and begin putting away a little christmas kala.

    it’s not only about the money, it’s about the sort of direction “tourism” on the island should look like going forward. as you’ve said, this could be a blessing in more ways than one.

    if the quote was accurate, walter has already said that the 36 people isn’t a big deal.

    i’ve always considered walter to be a smart person, the coming days will tell whether he is also wise (big difference between the two),

    here’s an opportunity where he can make peace and still be an aloha aina warrior.

    a rare win-win (and a much needed one) for molokai is at hand.

    i actually look forward to eating my words about danny mateo’s lack of leadership. darn near fell off the pune’e when i read he was not only in attendance, but he had the mayor’s aid with him. both sounded like they are of a mind that will make chowing on my bitter words a delight.

    (someone please pass the soy sauce at the appropriate time)

    hope you understand kfc as he comes in pure jest. a little levity probably can only help here.

    aloha as this will be my final comment on the issue.


  9. Aloha people of Molokai, and all others that continue to read but not comment. We must hear from everyone on this matter concerning ASC vessel coming to Molokai and not just a few. Today we have created a list of legislators you need to contact to make your views heard. If you call Kalele Book Store and leave your email address we can send you this information. On another note there will be no back door agreements to be made by us with Walter or any other group. We truly believe in dialog which includes the entire island residents.

  10. […] ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa photo exhibit on Big IslandU.S. Senate candidate Ed Case on Molokai todayAmerican Safari Cruises agrees to postpone visitsCommunity shares mana’o on cruise boatFire destroys Ho’olehua homeProtests block tour boat from […]

  11. […] After the 145-foot yacht, the Safari Explorer, was blocked from entering Kaunakakai Harbor Nov. 26, ASC postponed two visits to Molokai in an effort to reach an agreement with the protestors. The company announced this week it will […]

  12. […] American Safari Cruises agrees to postpone visits Lengthy meeting on cruise yacht issue leads to plans for community-oriented conflict resolution […]

  13. […] well-attended Nov. 30 community meeting on this issue was followed by negotiations between ASC and community leaders. In an attempt to […]

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