Hawaii Politician Stops Voting After Declaring State May Be Illegally Occupied Territory

Drone Aerial Panorama - Island of Maui, Hawaii
Joe West / Shutterstock

A Hawaii county councilwoman has stopped voting and attending council meetings after coming to the conclusion that Hawaii may be an “occupied sovereign country” rather than a part of the United States, The Guardian reports. Jennifer Ruggles, who has served on the Puna district council for two years, announced this belief in August and has since declined to participate in any council votes. Because of this, she has been barred from council meetings.

Hawaii was made a state in 1959. Since then, there have been groups and individuals claiming that the land’s annexation was fraudulent and illegal. In 1893, a group of American sugar planters, with the support of the US government, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. According to History, the man behind the coup filed for annexation, but Democrats refused to support it due to the fact that most Hawaiians did not want annexation. It wasn’t until Pearl Harbor’s strategic value became clear that the US Congress went ahead with making Hawaii a state.

In 1993, Congress passed the “Apology Resolution,” which formally acknowledge that the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 was illegal. To the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, this is not enough. They claim that the continuing presence of the US military in Hawaii is an illegal military occupation and want a return to a status as a sovereign nation.

Queen Liliʻuokalani of the Kingdom of Hawaii
Queen Liliʻuokalani of the Kingdom of Hawaii Mark James Miller / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ruggles, having been born in Hawaii, was aware of the sovereignty movement but had not looked into the details until she recently read a United Nations memo by human rights and international law expert Alfred de Zayas.

“[T]he Hawaiian Islands … [make up a] nation state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation,” de Zayas wrote. Under international law, he claims that US law does not apply to Hawaii.

After reading the memo, Ruggles began to fear that participating in a US government agency operating in Hawaii would be breaking international law.

“It’s a question that is really challenging the status quo and a lot of people shy away from that,” she said. “Not a lot of people are up for the consequences, I have been experiencing a lot of retaliation.”

Ruggles’ term as councilwoman ends on Monday, but she plans to continue advocating for the idea that Hawaii’s annexation was not legal and work for solutions with various non-profit human rights organizations.