The executive director of Iolani Palace strongly objects to the closure of America’s only royal residence, a decision he blames on Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

“This unilateral decision to close the Palace for tours was made without consulting The Friends of Iolani Palace,” said Kippen de Alba Chu in a press statement released late Wednesday. “I received a call on Monday evening from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office relaying a message from the Governor’s Office that the Palace would be closed to all tours, including APEC related tours.”

De Alba Chu is upset at the loss of palace revenue that will come with the closure, as well as the missed opportunity to showcase the palace during the APEC summit.

But William Aila, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, told Civil Beat that Monday’s decision to close the palace was his.

“The closure was ordered by me based on consultation with the attorney general,” he said. “But the statutory authority to close the palace lies with me, so ultimately I am the decision-maker.”

Aila added that he was “disappointed” that de Alba Chu issued the press release without consulting DLNR. Friends of Iolani Palace is a non-profit organization that “supports, guides, and manages Palace activities, providing caring stewardship for this Hawaiian landmark and national treasure.” It administers the palace under a lease with the state.

“The DLNR stands by its decision to close the palace,” said Aila.

Public Safety Paramount

Citing public safety and property protection, the palace gates were ordered locked Monday afternoon and will remain locked until Nov. 15, two days after the APEC summit concludes.

The action came just hours before 23 Hawaiian sovereignty activists were arrested Monday night after they refused to leave palace grounds. They had themselves briefly locked the gates Sunday night until Monday morning.

Aila said the decision was made after consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, the Honolulu Police Department, deputy sheriffs and DLNR staff. The U.S. Secret Service was not consulted.

De Alba Chu is not happy about the decision.

“APEC is one of the biggest international events in the history of Hawaii and a rare opportunity for us to share with the world our islands’ heritage, hospitality and Native Hawaiian culture,” he stated. “It is inconceivable that we have to turn away national and international visitors from Iolani Palace, an iconic symbol of Hawaiian royalty.”

De Alba Chu anticipates lost revenues to exceed $42,000. As well, the palace has had to issue apologies to the delegations of China, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Taiwan and the U.S. Department of Commerce, “all of whom had planned special visits to the historic site for high-ranking officials,” according to the press release.

“Kalakaua forged bilateral relations with these very same APEC members, which explains why these countries’ delegations were so excited to visit the Palace,” said de Alba Chu. “Hawaii and the various APEC members share a common history that long predates annexation by the United States. This decision to completely lock down the Palace is not aloha. It is the exact opposite.”

But the governor approves of Aila’s decision.

“The safety and protection of Iolani Palace should never be compromised,” said administration spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz. “The first priority is to protect the palace, and once the assessment was made that there was a real risk to the palace, the employees and the volunteers, we had to make this difficult decision.”

Iolani Palace has 41 full-time employees and more than 100 volunteers who work as docents, greeters and guardians.

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