HONOLULU — The CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs emerged vindicated and relieved after an all-day board meeting Monday that had him concerned for his job.
Kamanaopono Crabbe and OHA’s board of trustees met for more than six hours behind closed doors to discuss his fate, resolving an awkward public spat that resulted when he sent a letter on May 5 to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Crabbe not only kept his post, he said the trustees agreed that the questions he raised in the letter had merit.
“I was a little worried,” he said in an interview afterward. “But in the spirit of our tradition to make things right, hooponopono, we recognized the gravity of the future of our people that is before it. We put them ahead of us. We have to think for the broader good of our people and the future of our sovereignty.”
In the letter, Crabbe noted the U.S. government had acknowledged that the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaii Kingdom in 1893 was illegal and asked if, by extension, the work the OHA was doing as a government entity might conflict with international law.
The letter asked for a ruling on whether the Kingdom of Hawaii might still legally exist.
The trustees quickly followed up with a letter to Kerry rescinding Crabbe’s correspondence. But Crabbe has won public support, including a petition signed by more than 2,500 people.
The petition said Crabbe’s questions represent the perspectives of many people in “their search for justice regarding the United States supported illegal overthrow.”
Crabbe and the trustees emerged after 5 p.m. to say they had reconciled. They then sang the official state song, “Hawaii Ponoi,” with arms over one another’s shoulders, with an emotional gathering of dozens of supporters outside the board chambers.
“We just know that we have to communicate better and to continue to work together,” board Chairwoman Colette Machado said.
About 80 people packed the agency’s boardroom in boisterous support of Crabbe before the closed-door session began, and most of them spent the day waiting outside the chambers, joining in songs, playing drums and guitars, and at turns blowing a conch. Afterward Crabbe addressed a large group of youths, thanking them and embracing each one individually.
“Nation-building is not easy. But just so you know, we are setting the foundation for you for tomorrow,” he told them. “Through your mana, it truly did help myself and the board come together.”