Ige and Integrity: Machine Politics and Special Interests

By Sue Patricia Haglund

A contribution to Abolition’s conversation on “States of Emergency/Emergence: Learning from Mauna Kea” (read the call here)

[Photo by Jamm Aquino]

“Your vote will help decide whether state government operates in an open, honest, and transparent manner as it makes the critical decisions that will impact the lives of our communities and the next generation. It is a question of whether we will return to the old ways of machine politics and backroom deals, allowing special interests to outweigh the public interest and personal gain to be placed before the collective good. Additionally, each governor appoints hundreds of people to positions of influence and power, people you didn’t vote for, but that you must trust were selected on their merits.

The race for governor is certainly about leadership, but leaders don’t just talk about leadership. They get things done, and they do so with integrity. My leadership team is comprised of professionals and together we have truly moved the needle on issues that matter, from improving the quality of education and protecting the environment to increasing housing options and transitioning those without homes to permanent housing. Let’s stand together, and work together, toward our shared goals of making Hawaii better and providing the next generation with all the opportunities they deserve.”

– David Ige, September 12, 2018, Honolulu Civil Beat[1]

In our current state of political affairs, Ige’s words, like a broken record, continue to shatter any true practical act of ethical integrity, open practice of good governance, transparent accountability in leadership, and upholding the protection of human rights. On September 12, 2018, the Honolulu Civil Beat Staff published Governor David Ige’s 2018 Candidate for Governor Question and Answer, in which he talked about public interest versus private interest, restoration of integrity and accountability in all three branches of government, and the importance of leadership upholding transparency.[2] The repetition of integrity and accountability played out throughout his 2018 campaign.

Hence, we must consider the following questions: What does true integrity look like?; Is true integrity in leadership about transparency and accountability?; Does true integrity exist in Western politics? The probability of true integrity existing in our current political affairs can occur when there is transparency and accountability in a fair process; that is to say, a process and procedure that is non-partisan and public interest outweighs special interest groups. That is where true integrity begins.

Yet, as a Guna (Indigenous people of Gunayala, Panama) and Indigenous scholar, I am constantly reminded of the words of Guna leader Sagladummad Inakeliginya about the dangers that Western politics play on the lives of Indigenous people and nations worldwide. As Guna leader, Sagladummad Inakeliginya said, “We must always bear in mind a great truth: we are different from those wagas, and we do not look like them. Our culture, compared to theirs, is different. They do not think like us, do not feel like us, do not plan like us. The wagas plan to finish us and they say that they love us.” (Siempre tenemos que tener presente una gran verdad: somos distintos de los wagas y no nos parecemos. Nuestra cultura, comparada con la de ellos, es distinta. Ellos no piensan como nosotros, no sienten como nosotros, no planean como nosotros. Los wagas planean para acabarnos y dicen que nos quieren mucho.)[3] 

On the eve of July 17th, 2019, Governor David Ige signed and released an emergency proclamation statement. The purpose of an emergency proclamation is “to provide relief for disaster damages, losses, and suffering, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people.”[4] This, however, is not taking place.

The state governor issued this administrative rule to enact and exercise an extraordinary usage of police powers, at the same time, suspending current state laws and regulations. The obfuscation of this proclamatory act to adjourn current state legal regulations undoubtedly authorizes the expansion of police powers and unethically creates a policy of violence against the bodies of Kanaka Maoli protectors who are upholding, with true integrity and nonviolence, the defense of Mauna Kea. In addition, the governor’s abuse of power in issuing an emergency proclamation is unethical, disgraceful, and itself a form of aggression. Ige, in his own words from 2018, returns “to the old ways of machine politics and backroom deals, allowing special interests to outweigh the public interest and personal gain to be placed before the collective good.”[5]

In fact, Ige’s proclamation is a “protection” for a special interest: The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC. There is no protection for the welfare of people, both Kānaka Maoli and allies who reside in these islands. There is no relief, nor protection, from damages and losses when an obscene edifice is built on the backs of the lands, waters and native species.

What is truly at stake is perpetual state violence, via policymaking by elected public officials like Governor David Ige, committed against Kānaka Maoli and their cultural practices and ways of life. It is an assemblage of conflicting interests, cronyism, and political rewards at its finest.[6] Ige’s gubernatorial actions are a mockery filled with a political agenda that overlooks the public interest such as fiduciary needs for livable wages, educational enhancements in our public schools, and restoration of integrity for access to affordable housing and healthcare.

Even though Governor Ige withdrew his emergency proclamation on July 30th, 2019, there still remains a public mistrust in Hawai‘i’s local government (this includes: the state and four counties) due to inferred conflict of interest, political policy-making demonstration favoring business enterprises over Indigenous lands and water rights.[7] Ige’s inhumane proclamation is one that expands the powers of a police state against kia‘i—the protectors of Mauna Kea—who are exercising the right to protect the mountain, as well as the lands and waters that we, including Governor Ige, all live on. The state of emergency perpetuates a state of political disdain that continues to parade unethical stains in public policy-making and leadership.



Nuegambi, I would like to acknowledge and give my thanks to Drs. Sarah Wiebe and Uahikea Maile for creating space for conversations on “States of Emergency/Emergence: Learning from Mauna Kea – A Call for Conversation.” I also would like to thank Abolition Journal for hosting the conversation series. Nued!


Sue Patricia Haglund (Guna, Gunayala Panama), PhD – Lecturer and Educational Specialist, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, Department of Ethnic Studies and Honors Program

[1]The Civil Beat Staff, “Candidate Q&A: Governor—David Ige,” Honolulu Civil Beat, September 12, 2018, https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/09/candidate-qa-governor-david-ige/ (accessed on October 6, 2019).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Aiban Wagua, Así lo vi y así me lo contaron (Panama: Nan Gardurba Oduloged Igar, 2007).

[4] Office of the Governor, “Proclamation,” The State of Hawaiʻi, 2019, https://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/1907086-Mauna-Kea.pdf (accessed on October 6, 2019).

[5] Ibid.

[6] For example, in recent news, there is a paper trail that illuminates Ige’s fiscal ties between Pacific International Realty, Inc., Private Security Group, Inc., and David and Dawn Ige Enterprises where the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ public records show Melanie Long as the registered agent for David and Dawn Ige Enterprises. Melanie Long is listed as business agent for Pacific International Realty and along with Charles Long, Melanie Long is listed as officer for Private Security Group, Inc. For more details, see the following: http://judicialcorruptionnews.com/ige-tmt-bribery/, https://hbe.ehawaii.gov/documents/business.html?fileNumber=44881G5,  https://hbe.ehawaii.gov/documents/business.html?fileNumber=214667D1, and https://hbe.ehawaii.gov/documents/business.html?fileNumber=203631D1.

[7] Office of the Governor, “Withdrawal of Proclamation,” The State of Hawaiʻi, 2019, https://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Withdrawal.pdf (accessed on October 6, 2019).

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