Zuckerberg Uses Facebook to Respond to Kauaʻi Land Dealings
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his own Facebook page today to defend his Kauaʻi land dealings, which have drawn widespread media attention after he filed several “quiet title” lawsuits against small landowners in the area.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported on Wednesday that the billionaire, “through companies he controls, filed eight “quiet title” lawsuits on Dec. 30 in Circuit Court, seeking to force owners of 14 small properties to sell their stakes in their land at public auction.”
The publication noted that the parcels are surrounded by hundreds of north shore acreage that Zuckerberg bought two years ago for an estimated $100m.
The lawsuits also drew negative headlines, with the UK Sci/Tech organization, The Register publishing the headline, “Zuck off: Facebook’s big kahuna sues Hawaiians to kick ’em off their land.”
Zuckerberg called some recent reports about his plans “misleading” and in his response today said, “For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land.”
The comments drew another round of criticism from those opposed to his approach.
Oʻahu resident Kristin Paulo said many of the families included in the lawsuits do not have the financial means to go to court to prove their ancestral rights. “By suing them you force them to defend their own interests; and they only have 20 days to do it, provided they can even afford an attorney.”
Paulo continued saying, this is exactly how Hawaiians have lost land in the past. “You are perpetuating a long and sad injustice done to Hawaiians by outside interests like yourself… Waving cash to get what you want isn’t a Hawaiian Tradition. It’s a western way of satisfying greed,” she said.
In just three hours, the post on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page drew more than 2,500 comments and was shared more than 1,300 times.
One of the most liked comments on his post was from Hawaiʻi born and now Oʻahu resident, Kamanawa Kinimaka who responded saying, “all that land you occupy is just a reminder to the Native people of how deep pockets push aside culture, tradition and legacy. We are holding on to those parcels because it’s our last chance to keep the land our ancestors walked, fought and birthed on. What you are doing is a repeat of history, in a different form. You are occupying land in an illegally occupied Nation, distracting birth right occupants by the money that occupies your life.”
In Zuckerberg’s view, the suits were filed “to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share.” He explained that in the mid-1800s, small parcels were granted to families, which after generations might now be split among hundreds of descendants. “There aren’t always clear records, and in many cases descendants who own 1/4% or 1% of a property don’t even know they are entitled to anything,” he said.
Here on Maui, quiet title cases have included long-fought battles over ancestral rights to land at Honolua and an ongoing case involving Kahoma Valley and other parcels in West Maui.
Zuckerberg asserts that he wants to create a home on the island and “help preserve the wildlife and natural beauty.” He said that he is working with a professor of native Hawaiian studies in the quite title process and intends to be “good members of the community and preserve the environment.”