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Protesters say that charges against them were dropped

Work on waterline project remains on hold

Linda Magalianes (from left), Consuelo Apolo-Gonsalves, Uilani Kapu, Noelani Ahia, Kahikilani Niles and Victoria Kaluna-Palafox appear outside Lahaina District Court Monday morning. The five women – not including Ahia – were arrested last month while protesting a waterline project in Lahaina. On Monday they announced that charges against them had been dropped. KIA‘I KAUAULA photo

Five Lahaina women who stood in a trench in protest over a waterline project said Monday that charges against them have been dropped and their bail refunded.

The women, who were arrested last month while trying to stop the project that they fear will disturb burials, made the announcement Monday outside Lahaina District Court.

Maui police and the group Kia’i Kauaula identified them as Lahaina residents Uilani Kapu, 55; Linda Magalianes, 57; Victoria Kaluna-Palafox, 64; Kahikilani Niles, 35; and Consuelo Apolo-Gonsalvez, 47. All parties were released after posting $100 bail each, police said.

The group thanked Acting Maui County Prosecutor Robert Rivera for not pursuing the cases.

Rivera could not be reached for comment on Monday. There were no court records of the women’s cases online.

Five protesters from the group Kia‘i Kauaula were arrested last month after they stood in a trench being dug for a waterline project in an area just outside Lahaina town. On Monday charges were apparently dropped in the case. KIA‘I KAUAULA photo

At the site outside Lahaina town where the women protested, work is still on hold following the protests and the discovery of human remains in another area on Oct. 23.

West Maui Construction, part of West Maui Land Co., said it has not yet received guidance from the State Historic Preservation Division, which was called along with the Maui Police Department when human skeletal remains were identified by an on-site archaeological monitor during trenching work for a waterline.

West Maui Land previously said that it was their understanding that the remains were inadvertently discovered in a displaced area, away from the original burial location. However, the company is waiting on confirmation from SHPD.

Because of the “sensitive nature of the discovery,” the company was not disclosing the location. Protesters said the area where the remains were found is adjacent to Jacobson Cemetery.

The State Historic Preservation Division said in an email Monday that the landowner has voluntary stopped work until the division decides on mitigation. It added that the landowner has not made a request for an official determination to preserve the remains in place or relocate them. The Maui Lanai Island Burial Council will be discussing the case at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The discovery was not in the area where protests were taking place last month, the company said.

Protest organizers said that West Maui Land and its subsidiaries should stop construction activities until burials and historic properties can be properly surveyed and protected. They added that there are several cemeteries, recorded and unrecorded state historic and cultural sites and an old government road portion of Mill Street.

The five women who were arrested last month stood in a trench that was being dug to place waterlines, police said.

Outside Lahaina District Court on Monday after getting their bail back, the five women, or “Na Wahine Koa,” thanked supporters and called it a “great blessing,” but pledged to stand up for their rights.

“I still stand on these things that need to be stopped,” Kaluna-Palafox said outside the courthouse in a statement that was livestreamed on Facebook.

She called out government leaders to assist and referenced the arrests of kanaka over the years, saying it is “not part of our culture, it’s not part of our tradition,” but that something that Hawaiians had to learn about.

“Today we stand, we going stop all of this desecration,” Kaluna-Palafox said. “We going stop the taking of lands that do not belong to others, that needs to be given to our children and our grandchildren.”

Kia’i Kauaula has demanded the county take “meaningful, affirmative action to prevent future civil and political rights violations and commit to avoiding the criminalizing of Kanaka Maoli exercising constitutionally protected practices.”

The group added that the Maui Lanai Island Burial Council passed a motion in early October that called on West Maui Land to immediately cease trenching and utility installation work.

Last month the county said it was investigating the issues surrounding the discovery and that Mayor Michael Victorino would like to “achieve a resolution that respects and protects Native Hawaiian cultural and archaeological resources.”

West Maui Construction said in a statement Monday afternoon that it is in dialogue with Maui County “in an attempt to find a mutual understanding with those who are opposed to the project.”

The statement said that the path of the irrigation waterline deliberately avoids the documented cemeteries and burial sites in the area, and that West Maui Construction has, and will continue to observe all laws relating to the inadvertent discovery of burial sites.

West Maui Construction said the waterline is being constructed for Launiupoko Irrigation Co., a Public Utilities Commission-regulated utility that supplies irrigation water for farming in the Makila, Launiupoko and Lahaina area.

The company reiterated that the irrigation waterline does not require any county permits and that West Maui Construction has been compliant with all county requests. They said that the property on which the irrigation waterline is being installed has clear title and the owners have consented to its installation.

Landowners have expressed frustration in not having their rights as property owners enforced and being denied traditional avenues of recourse such as trespass actions, the company said, adding it is not involved in any other projects on the irrigation line site.

“West Maui Construction looks forward to finishing the irrigation waterline project and will continue to observe all laws,” the statement said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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