After weeks of taking Hawaiian heat for his legal actions related to a 700-acre, $100-million Kauaian construction project, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has halted his efforts to acquire parcels through the court system. In an open letter published by the island’s local paper, the Garden Island, Zuckerberg appears apologetic and regretful. “Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake.
“The right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward,” Zuckerberg’s letter continued. “We will continue to speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path. Beyond this process, we are also looking for more ways to support the community as neighbors. We have contributed to community organizations and will continue to do so. We work with wildlife experts to preserve endangered species. We hope to do much more in the future. We love Kaua`i and we want to be good members of the community for the long term. Thank you for welcoming our family into your community.”
Zuckerberg’s letter came during threats of protest organized by community leaders, who planned the demonstration along the enormous lava rock wall Zuckerberg erected immediately after acquiring the land.
“People are furious down here with him,” Joe Hart, one of the the organizers for the protest told Business Insider. “He’s made his money stealing everyone’s information, which we’ve let him do, but to come down here and start suing everyone, that’s not going to fly down here.”
After finishing construction on a six-foot tall lava rock wall surrounding the property, Zuckerberg filed eight lawsuits at the end of last year for 14 parcels of Kuleana land – property owned by native Hawaiian families through a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that, “for the first time, gave native Hawaiians the right to own the land they lived on,” according top Business Insider. “The 14 parcels together total eight of the roughly 700 acres Zuckerberg owns, but the ancient law gives any direct family member of a parcel’s original owner the right to enter the billionaire’s otherwise private compound.”
Responding to Zuckerberg’s letter, Hawaiian State Representative Kaniela Ing, was grateful and hopeful:
“To Mark Zuckerberg, thank you for doing the right thing and hearing our voices,” Ing wrote on Facebook. “You now have an opportunity to set the bar for what being a good neighbor and an ally to indigenous peoples looks like. To everyone who helped share the story, mahalo and congratulations. This is a major victory for Native Hawaiians and everyday folks everywhere. Remember this feeling when you feel powerless. We matter when we stand united. I look forward to having conversations with Mr. Zuckerberg and the families involved. I trust that we will find a fair solution that ensures Mr. Zuckerberg’s privacy and security, opens trail and beach access for everyone, and keeps Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands.”