Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been denounced as the “face of neocolonialism” as he prepares to sue a number of native Hawaiians whose lands are on his $100 million estate.
Zuckerberg launched the “quiet title” lawsuits to determine the lawful owners of land redistributed by the Kuleana Act, dating back all the way to 1848.
The technology entrepreneur is suing hundreds of people in an attempt to remove them from their land, even if it has been owned by their family for generations.
“This is the face of neocolonialism. Even though a forced sale may not physically displace people, it’s the last nail in the coffin of separating us from the land, ”said Kapua Sproat, a law professor at the University of Hawaii, who is also from Kauai, the island on which Zuckerberg’s property is located.
““For us, as Native Hawaiians, the land is an ancestor. It’s a grandparent, you just don’t sell your grandmother,” she continued.
Another Hawaiian, Mason Chock, who sits on the council of Kauai where Zuckerberg’s property is located, pointed out how rich people such as Zuckerberg are pricing out people from the area. “People have always seen the value of living in Hawaii, in paradise, and for many generations now, it’s been a detriment to us,” he said.
“They’ve come in and purchased land and raised the value so much. Only people from abroad or outside Kauai can even afford to live in Kauai now,” he added.
Hawaii’s state representative Kaniela Ing of Maui also said that “you don’t initiate conversation by starting a lawsuit,” and, “Zuckerberg is saying he wants to respect the local culture and Hawaiian values but … I was always taught that if there was a dispute with somebody you go and knock on their door, sit down, and you [discuss it] and you [make it right.]”
Zuckerberg has previously said he “fell in love” with the local Hawaiian community, adding that after multiple visits to the island he and his wife “eventually decided to plant roots and join the community ourselves.”
On 19th January, Zuckerberg defended his position in a Facebook post. “The land is made up of a few properties. In each case, we worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a deal they thought was fair and wanted to make on their own. As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too,” he said.
“We love Hawaii and we want to be good members of the community and preserve the environment. We look forward to working closely with the community for years to come,” he continued.