- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Five Native Hawaiians are asking to participate in a hearing for the construction permit of a giant telescope on Mauna Kea mountain.

Their requests, submitted this week to the state land board, say they have cultural and traditional rights to Mauna Kea and that their participation will help the board make a decision.

The state Supreme Court in December ruled the land board should not have issued a permit to construct the telescope on conservation land before it held a hearing to evaluate a petition by a group challenging the project’s approval. The ruling sent the matter back for a new contested-case hearing.

Those who oppose the $1.4 billion project say it will desecrate sacred land.

Edward Akiona’s letter asking to participate in the hearing describes going to Mauna Kea for the past 50 years to practice “my cultural responsibilities” and educate himself about the mountain’s condition.

“I have more recently become aware of the significance of the Mauna to the native culture of Hawaii, and seek to keep it available for the maintenance and promotion of Hawaiian culture,” he wrote. “My father’s ashes are scattered on Mauna Kea.”

Richard DeLeon’s request says he’s a chanter of prayers and dancer of ancient hula, and the telescope will infringe on his spirituality. Waiala Ahn’s request says “just the thought” of the project “is detrimental to my spiritual, emotional, psychological” health.

There may be a few other similar requests that have been submitted but not yet posted online, said Dan Dennison, spokesman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The nonprofit corporation that wants to build the telescope is also asking to participate in the hearing. According to the motion filed last month, TMT International Observatory should be a party in the proceeding because it stands to lose the most if a permit is not issued. As of Friday, no decision had been issued.

Currently the parties involved are a group of telescope opponents and the University of Hawaii, which leases the land from the state and is the permit applicant.

Hearing officer Riki May Amano is expected to meet briefly with lawyers involved in the case on Monday.

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