Just a month ago, in early August, a “cease and desist” letter was issued warning  influential Hawaiian political scientist and activist scholar, David Keanu Sai, to stop spreading what were referred to as misleading, fabricated or exaggerated descriptions of current and past events.

The warning didn’t come from the U.S. government or the State of Hawaii, both of which Sai claims are illegally occupying the Hawaiian Islands and thus have no legal authority.

This time around, the “cease and desist” missive came in a letter to Sai from Edmund K. Silva Jr., who styles himself as Alii Nui Moi, or king, of the “Kingdom of Hawaii,” one of several self-proclaimed sovereigns who have staked claims to represent the kingdom and the Hawaiian people.

Supporters draped in the Hawaiian flags chant as they approach the Mauna Kea visitor center.  10 april 2015.  photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Some opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea are among those closely following the various legal claims involving Hawaiian sovereignty.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The reader should not confuse Silva’s “Kingdom of Hawaii” with the “Hawaiian Kingdom,” an equally self-proclaimed group which also claims to wield government authority in the islands, and in which Sai has adopted the titles of Chairman of the Council of Regency, and Acting Minister of the Interior.

And while this might easily be dismissed as a demand letter from one make-believe ruler to another, this one is of interest because Sai’s controversial historical theories and legalistic assertions are providing the intellectual grounding for a significant group of Hawaiian sovereignty activists.

Sai’s controversial historical theories and legalistic assertions are providing the intellectual grounding for a significant group of Hawaiian sovereignty activists.

While certainly not the sole proponent of the idea that the overthrow of the kingdom was unjust and illegal, Sai’s embellishment of that proposition with claims about international law and previously unknown backroom deals to restore the monarchy have become increasingly popular, and liberal references to his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa have sought to imbue these claims with added legitimacy.

Recently, for example, they have found their way into legal arguments made in court by protesters arrested on Mauna Kea, as well as a number of other criminal and civil cases in which Sai’s published articles have been cited as proof that Hawaii courts lack jurisdiction because of the continued sovereignty of the kingdom.

The claims have not been successful in court, but have nonetheless have raised Sai’s stature in parts of the sovereignty movement.

In his letter, Silva minces no words. He accuses Sai of “perverting the facts,” and calls his behavior “misleading, misdirected, dangerous and harmful” to Hawaiians.

The letter then goes on to debunk a series of claims made by Sai in speeches, publications, and the Hawaiian Kingdom website.

The first case reviewed involves a criminal case involving two Molokai fisherman. Sai has proclaimed that a recent ruling by a state judge confirmed the valid and continued existence of the kingdom.

Silva’s letter takes Sai to task for the claim and explains what actually happened in court.

Silva explains that attorney Dexter Kaiama filed a motion in the criminal proceedings asking for the charges to be dismissed for an alleged lack of jurisdiction because, citing Sai’s publications, the kingdom still exists.

The court denied the motion to dismiss and, in doing so, rejected the claim that the kingdom’s continued existence leaves the State of Hawaii and the U.S. with no jurisdiction over Hawaiians.

But Sai continues to claim that the court’s ruling recognizes the continued legal existence of the kingdom.

“Unfortunately, I do not think you believe the judge made such a ruling,” Silva wrote. “I think that instead you were willing to totally misrepresent what happened in the court in order to make it look like you achieved some great ruling. That self-serving act has misled thousands of people into believing that there was such a ruling when in fact there was no such ruling.”

Similarly, Silva’s letter charges Sai has deliberately misrepresented the outcome of allegations of “war crimes” that he filed with Swiss prosecutors.

The case was dismissed, but Sai claimed the court ruling backed his belief that international treaties entered into by the Hawaiian Kingdom are still in effect.

Silva disputes that view.

“The Court noted that you had made that argument,” Silva wrote. “While I would certainly agree with that argument, the court was merely noting what YOU argued, NOT entering a ruling.”

In this instance, Silva again accuses Sai of deliberately misrepresenting the court’s action in order to boost his own prestige.

The result, Silva wrote, “amounts to a fraud on the people.”

Sai, who has been writing quite prolifically on other matters on the Hawaiian Kingdom blog, has apparently not responded to Silva’s cease and desist letter.

About the Author

  • Ian Lind
    Ian Lind is an award-winning investigative reporter and columnist who has been blogging daily for 15 years. He has also worked as a newsletter publisher, public interest advocate and lobbyist for Common Cause in Hawaii, peace educator, and legislative staffer. Lind is a lifelong resident of the islands. Read his blog here. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.