27 Feb 2009

US Supreme Court to rule later this year on Hawaii land issue

8:03 am on 27 February 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule later this year on the Hawaii Governor's appeal to it over the state's ability to sell any of its 1.2 million acres of ceded lands.

The state's own Office of Hawaiian Affairs has argued that the lands must be held until claims of native Hawaiians have been resolved, which the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld.

But during the hearing on Wednesday, Hawaii's Attorney General, Mark Bennett, asked the nine Justices to overturn the state court's decision.

Mr Bennett says the Governor's administration knows how important the case is for all Hawaiians, including indigenous people.

"Because the case was about whether in the first instance the U.S. Congress had ordered the State of Hawaii, through an Apology Resolution not to transfer any of the public land held by the state. And we believe the Congress had not done that. They had apologised, but that doesnt mean the apology wasnt important but it wasn't a direction to the state to hold land but also we believe its important for the Supreme Court to make clear that the owner of the land is the State of Hawaii."

But the Office of Hawaiian Affairs supporters and others fear that a wide-ranging decision by the justices could undermine native Hawaiian claims to the ceded lands.

The Apology Resolution is a U.S. Public Law adopted in 1993 in which the U.S. Government apologized for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.