“Naboth’s Vineyard:” A Preliminary Look at the Royal Commission of Inquiry

#82 in the Moʻolelo series

In 2017, the Acting government of the Hawaiian Kingdom* was set to restart proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, Netherlands. The judges were chosen, dates were set and everything was ready to go, when suddenly the head of the court announced that the court was only available for member nations of the United Nations. Hawaiʻi was never a member of the UN, as of course the overthrow predates its creation. This was very strange indeed because Hawaiʻi had already been to the PCA in 1999-2001 with the case Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom. (The record for that case, incidentally, lists Larsen as a private party and the Hawaiian Kingdom as a “state” – a country). The Larsen case was cited in a recent case involving the South China Sea, one of the hottest of political hot spots today – this gave credence to the Larsen case, which is now a precedent case (for the issue of “third party states,” in the Larsen case it was over the question of whether the US had to be involved in the proceedings or not). Also, the PCA also predates by almost half a century the creation of the UN (it was established in 1899, the UN in 1946), though this in itself doesn’t necessarily stop it from having such a requirement today.

Being unable to return to the PCA, the acting government established a Commission of Inquiry. In a recent post I analyzed the portion of the report that was William A. Shabas’s opinion on war crimes being committed in Hawaiʻi. Schabas’s opinion was part of a larger report of the Commission of Inquiry, which I will preliminarily discuss here.

The report begins with an epigraph under a picture of Liliʻuokalani:

Queen Lili’uokalani

“Naboth’s vineyard” is a metaphor also used (or quoted) in a presentation by Donovan Preza regarding land titles and is a reference to not coveting another’s land. The report itself begins with a description of the well-known investigation requested by President Grover Cleveland into the overthrow (which led to the Blount Report, which is actually entitled “Affairs in Hawaii”). What is less-well known is that Cleveland called the events of January 16th (the date of the landing of troops) the “occupation of Honolulu.” This is significant because some have commented, as I mentioned in the earlier post, that occupation could not have occurred in 1898 because The Hague Convention did not exist until 1899. Yet here is President Cleveland himself calling the overthrow an occupation in 1893! (For those unfamiliar with the concept of occupation, see my article “Occupation 101.”)

This shows that the occupation was an established concept well before the Hague Convention.

One of the issues that the report examines is the authority of the Acting government and its Council of Regency to represent Hawaiʻi in international proceedings. This is one of the topics I will examine in greater depth as I work my way through the report. Stay tuned.

*Acting is always in italics (by the group itself) to emphasize that this entity is standing in for the actual government of Hawaiʻi, which was overthrown and is yet to be replaced by one with full authority. The Council of Regency, similarly, stands in for there being no monarch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s