KAUNAKAKAI, Hawaii (STPNS) -- It was almost as though January 31st never happened. Two months ago, the Molokai community came out in unprecedented force and reacted to recumbent Enterprise Community (EC) board member Claud Sutcliffe?s claim that the vote was to be a ?community referendum? on the EC?s support of the master land-use plan, which includes the development of 200 luxury homes at La`au Point.

The vote brought out 1,284 Molokai voters, which is an enormous number when one considers how many people have voted in the past EC meetings (last year?s vote drew less than 200 people), and that more people voted in the ?community referendum? than turned out for November?s US general election. On an island of less than 8,000 people, the support was astounding for anti La`au Development candidates Bridget Mowat and Leila D Stone, as they handily ousted Sutcliffe and OHA Trustee Collette Machado.

The March 15 meeting, however, essentially reversed the public?s verdict; two former members, Machado and Cheryl Corbiell, were appointed to the board despite the public?s disbelieving objections at the meeting. Several members of the community walked out, appearing exasperated and downtrodden, after the motion was carried by a 5 to 4 margin.

In placing Machado and Corbiell back in the publicly-voted organization which has been one of the centerpieces of the La`au controversy, the Ke Aupuni Lokahi board have flexed every bit of intimidating muscle they could in order to realize a solid voting block. Molokai Ranch employee John Pele and Shannon Crivello, son of KAL Board president Stacy Crivello and who is exempt from attending most meetings because he lives on the inaccessible Kalaupapa peninsula, frequently shouted down Mowat and Sybil Dunnam when they asked for clarification or a discussion on the bills. Interruptions of ?Didn?t you get the agenda?? and ?do your homework? were heard frequently.

At the meeting, Mowat, Stone, and fellow anti-development board member Dunnam made several attempts to table motions which might halt or delay board member appointments. Since Machado?s and Corbiell?s appointments were based on the ?past practice? of replacing vacated seats with people who had run in the elections but had lost, Stone suggested that the EC break that trend because of the recent ?community referendum? and not put people back in office when it?s overtly contrary to the public?s wishes. She was told that there was no reason to break with past practices, even though said precedent was not based on KAL law or guidelines.

Now that Machado has been appointed to a two year term, which is effective immediately, the controversial OHA trustee has the opportunity to sit on the EC board for four consecutive years without missing a single meeting. One attendee at the meeting called the recently unseated Machado?s appointment a ?travesty of justice? while storming out after the motion was carried.

The heavy tension at the meeting finally boiled over and became uncontrollable during the discussion of the re-opening of project #7, the water moratorium, as the proceedings degenerated into shouting, displays of anger, name-calling, and attempts at physical violence. President Crivello adjourned the meeting just before 7:00 pm, and the many personal conflicts on display afterward were intense enough for County police to be called in to ensure there was no physical violence.

As one aforementioned attendee hinted at, there were certainly several travesties which unfolded at the March 15 meeting; several community members, like Karen Holt, lamented the galvanization which has occurred because of the master land-use plan, and pleaded for everyone involved to remember headier days when everybody worked together. ?Nobody in 1997 thought Molokai would gets its act together and win this grant money, but we did? says Karen before tensions boiled over.

The Master Land-Use Plan has been heavily opposed because of what some fear it will do to the social demographics, the wealth, and agricultural potential of the island. Those concerned over what will happen to the very fabric of the friendly isle need not look farther than the Thursday?s meeting, though. A peaceful place where family ties, history, and friendship run as deep as the proud legacy of activism and protectionism was exposed for a brief moment, and revealed the dark side of Molokai?s brimming potential.