Hui Malama: But we also answer to our consciences

Letter to the Editor
Honolulu Advertiser
Thursday, February 2, 2006

It is understandable that Terrence O'Toole would take the position he does regarding Hui Malama's refusal to "abide by the rule of law and to work within the legal system" (Letters, Jan. 20).

O'Toole intones some of the most traditional aspects of a true democracy, while ignoring one of its fundamental principles: the right and obligation of its citizens to speak, write and act against what they believe is wrong, even or particularly if such perceived wrongs are inventions of the state.

Some of our greatest leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, followed their consciences and mobilized the populace, supporters and opponents alike, by refusing to comply with what many believed were unjust laws. And because of their courageous acts of civil disobedience, millions of us now have access to freedoms and opportunities once granted to only a small portion of the world's population.

While I agree with O'Toole that "we are a nation of laws, governed by laws," he forgets that the United States is also a nation founded by political dissidents seeking to escape repressive social policies in their home country.

In the Kawaihae artifacts case, many of us believe that laws that have for centuries protected, and still to this day protect, the rights of industrialists, historians and scientists should never supercede the higher law of our individual and collective spiritual consciences.

That is why Edward Ayau and Hui Malama, even in accepting the consequences of violating laws that are fundamentally wrong, as with King and Gandhi, are true patriots of the people.

Val Kalei Kanuha

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