2/22 – Bill Brown and Elroy Osorio Testify on Behalf of P.U.E.O.
The pace of the hearings picked up the past two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) with seven scheduled witnesses completing their testimony.
Two of the witnesses belonged to the pro-TMT group Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, or PUEO for short. Made up mainly of the Keaukaha Hawaiian Homestead residents in Hilo, the group is pushing for the advancement of Native Hawaiians in astronomy and other STEM-related fields.
Bill Brown, a member of PUEO’s board of directors, said the telescopes on Maunakea have not discouraged him from worshipping on the mountain, and that the road to the summit allows him easier access.
With strong words and a strong voice to match, Brown was adamant in his views that Native Hawaiian students would benefit from the current and planned future telescopes on Maunakea.
“I mean no disrespect, everyone has their own way worshipping, and everyone is free to have and practice their own beliefs as long as they don’t hurt anyone,” Brown said. “But my job is to assist the next generation, and this is a way to take advantage, this is another door. And this may open the door for our children. To become Native Hawaiian intellectuals and not face intellectual discrimination.”
“We formed PUEO as it may open up pathways for educational opportunities for our keiki,” he added during his testimony. “It may encourage dialogue for our children to want to become astronomers.”
During cross-examination, Brown was asked a common question posed by opponents whether the TMT construction would hurt future generations of Native Hawaiians. Brown flatly responded no.
“With all respect, my personal opinion is this will help us with the education of our children,” he said.
PUEO member and lifelong Hilo resident Elroy Osorio stated that “economic opportunities on an island in the middle of the Pacific are limited.”
“But, our imagination is limitless,” Osorio said. “Our ancestors made the most of what they had… they understood that there was a larger world out there that included the heavens. Their explorations covered vast distances, constrained only by their technology.”
“Now we, as a people, are expected to flourish in an environment where the only economic drivers are the visitor industry and the military,” Osorio testified. “And now we, as a people, are being pressed to waste an opportunity for educational, professional and financial advantage for the people.”
He concluded in his testimony: “TMT promises to expand human knowledge and understanding of our universe. When as Ka Po‘e Hawaii, have we ever been opposed to that?”
Two other PUEO members, Keahi Warfield and Richard Ha, previously testified in support of building the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii.
Tomorrow is the last hearing scheduled for this week.