Na Keokani Kipona Marciel, Loea Lula Hoʻomalu
In the Lāhui today, we're familiar with terms like "international law" and "the rule of law,"
but what about "parliamentary law"?
What Is Parliamentary Law and How is It Relevant to the Lāhui?
Hawaiian patriotic societies and political parties were commonplace in the Lāhui during the Hawaiian Kingdom era. In fact, the proposed foreign—albeit illegal—annexation of the Hawaiian Islands was prevented from ever succeeding due to the efforts of the three largest Hawaiian patriotic societies at the close of the 19th century. These deliberative assemblies conducted their affairs according to the common parliamentary law. In other words: the generally accepted customs and best practices of voluntary organizations designed to ensure effective meetings and democratic decisions.
Parliamentary law is a branch of common law governing the conduct of deliberative assemblies. Democratic procedure, i.e., parliamentary law, is derived from the legislative assemblies of the national and local governments under whose jurisdiction an organization is located. Although the procedure of voluntary organizations was originally modeled after the procedure of their respective legislative bodies, over time the non-legislative procedure has been adapted to the needs of ordinary societies in general. This body of meeting procedures has become known as common parliamentary law, also known as general parliamentary law.
The common parliamentary law applies to all deliberative assemblies, including legislative bodies, in cases where their own adopted rules are silent. The operative word, "law," means that parliamentary law is not a switch that can be turned on or off. Hence, it is not an optional tool for deliberative assemblies. Instead, a deliberative assembly may only deviate from the common parliamentary law by adopting a procedural manual (parliamentary authority), standing rules of order, or long-standing customs, which supersede particular rules of common parliamentary law. However, an organization can only adopt its own standing rules of order or long-standing customs to the extent that they do not conflict with any applicable procedural rules prescribed by law or statutes in the jurisdiction where the organization is located.
What Is a Deliberative Assembly?
A deliberative assembly is a group of people sharing a common interest who have a meeting of the minds to democratically adopt decisions expressing their general will. Types of deliberative assemblies include:
The formation of a permanently organized deliberative assembly entails the adoption of governing documents, enrollment of members, election of officers, holding of regular meetings, and appointment of committees as needed. The meetings of a deliberative assembly entail adequate prior notice to all members, the presence of a quorum, an agreed-upon agenda that follows a prescribed order of business, a presiding officer to conduct the meetings, and a secretary to keep a legal record of the proceedings. If the organization collects membership dues or otherwise handles money, then a treasurer should be elected to maintain the funds of the organization, report the current balance at regular meetings, and provide an annual financial report to be audited by the organization.
What is a Parliamentary Authority?
Deliberative assemblies may adopt a published procedural manual, formally known as a parliamentary authority. Such a manual is a codification of common parliamentary law which contains standardized rules of order for meetings. The way that a procedural manual is adopted by a permanent organization is by including an article in its bylaws that references the manual. Additionally, an organization may adopt standing rules of order that supersede or supplement its adopted procedural manual.
What Gave Rise to Parliamentary Procedure Throughout the World?
Democratic procedure for group decisions is rooted in antiquity. The House of Commons in the United Kingdom—considered the mother of all parliamentary democracies—has formally conducted its business in democratic meetings for over seven centuries. The Speaker of the House of Commons serves as the impartial referee of its proceedings. Likewise, the Hawaiian Kingdom had a Speaker for its House of Representatives.
When Was Parliamentary Law Established in the Hawaiian Islands?
In 1840, the Hawaiian Kingdom became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. In 1854, each house of the Hawaiian Kingdom legislature adopted a procedural manual to govern the proceedings of their respective meetings. In turn, this established a basis for development of the common parliamentary law followed by ordinary societies and mass meetings in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
To What Extent Did Our Ancestors Know Parliamentary Law?
The Petition Against Annexation of 1897 defeated a proposed treaty in the United States Senate that would have illegally annexed the Hawaiian Islands if it had been adopted in 1898. Beloved by the Lāhui today, the significance of the monster petition—which we proudly refer to as the Kūʻē Petition--constitutes an unsurpassed historical feat. It was but one example of many petitions organized by Hawaiian patriotic societies in response to the insurgency that began in 1887, followed by the ongoing belligerent occupation that began in 1893.
During that time, our Aloha ʻĀina ancestors commonly organized themselves into deliberative assemblies. They did this by adopting governing documents, enrolling members, electing officers, holding meetings, authorizing boards, appointing committees, adopting resolutions, conducting mass meetings, participating in delegate conventions, and organizing petition efforts. The Hawaiian language newspapers of that era provide an historical record today that is full of examples demonstrating the commonality of, and familiarity with, parliamentary law in the Lāhui.
To What Extent Today Are We Familiar with Parliamentary Law?
During the Hawaiian Kingdom era, the Lāhui had no shortage of patriotic societies and political parties. Can the same be said about the Lāhui today? Of all the Aloha ʻĀina groups that we are familiar with today, how many can you identify with having any of the following items characteristic of a deliberative assembly?
What Do the Governing Documents Include?
The governing documents of an organization are sometimes referred to instead as the documents of authority, or the documentary authority. An organized permanent society may adopt any of the following documents of authority as needed:
Bylaws are the only governing document on the list that a voluntary permanent organization is required to adopt as a deliberative assembly. When drafting bylaws, it is advisable for an organization to consult with a credentialed parliamentarian for assistance.
Additionally, if an organization chooses to incorporate, then a corporate charter would be required as prescribed by applicable statutes. When drafting articles of incorporation, it is advisable for an organization to consult with an attorney for assistance.
Bylaws Are for Organizations and Constitutions Are for Governments
The practice of an organization adopting a constitution—with or without bylaws to go with it—is long since obsolete. The main reason is for simplification, since there are no provisions of an organizational constitution that cannot function the same way in the bylaws. Therefore, it is the recommended practice to combine the two into a single instrument called the bylaws. Furthermore, bylaws are to an organization as a constitution is to a government. That is another good reason why the term, "constitution," has been dropped from the governing documents of contemporary ordinary societies. This removes any potential for someone getting confused about the context in which the term, "constitution," is being used.
Which Procedural Manual is Best?
As suggested above, it is a best practice for voluntary organizations to adopt a procedural manual through a provision in the bylaws. The procedural manual that I generally recommend for voluntary organizations is Modern Parliamentary Procedure (2nd ed., 2018) by Ray Keesey. It offers the most radical simplification of procedure of all the parliamentary authorities ever published. Hence, it is the most concise, user-friendly, and practical choice available for the average meeting. For the Lāhui, I also recommend Nā Lula Hālāwai: A Parliamentary Guide to Conducting Meetings in Hawaiian (2014), by William Puette and Keao NeSmith.
Current Parliamentary Authorities
Older Parliamentary Authorities
Historic Parliamentary Authorities
Additional Parliamentary References
Na Keokani Kipona Marciel, Loea Lula Hoʻomalu
In 1840, the Hawaiian Kingdom became a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. In 1887, this democracy was compromised by insurgents who hijacked the Hawaiian Kingdom government at gunpoint. In 1893, the same insurgents were unlawfully installed as a puppet regime by a foreign country. The Hawaiian Islands have remained under belligerent occupation ever since because no treaty of cession has ever been produced to transfer the sovereignty and territory of Ko Hawaiʻi Pae ʻĀina to another country. Consequently: Authoritarianism is the type of governance that people living in Hawaiʻi have primarily become accustomed to since 1887, in the absence and pretense of democracy (totaling 132 years at the time of this writing).
Born and raised overseas, I did not grow up in occupied Hawaiʻi, and have not been conditioned over my lifetime to accept authoritarian governance as a social norm. On the contrary, I was brought up with democratic ideals. Furthermore, as a professionally credentialed parliamentarian, I am rigorously trained in democratic principles for the conduct of business in organizations.
Struck by Authoritarian Lightning
In 2016, I attended the annual convention of an historic association that I will refer to here as the Americanized Hawaiian Society. The president of the association at the time had a notorious reputation for governing the organization like a dictator. I experienced this firsthand when I raised a point of order about how the board illegally rescinded and deleted a resolution—recognizing the continuity of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the absence of a treaty of cession—adopted by the 2014 convention. Committing a cardinal sin as a presiding officer, the president got personal with me from the moment I asked for recognition from the floor. The president rejected my point of order (using incorrect and inappropriate parliamentary form), which I then appealed to the delegate assembly for a decision.
Pointing down at me condescendingly from the chair and exclaiming, "All those in favor of HIS point of order," the president took the vote (without first allowing for debate as required for a debatable appeal). I lost the decision, and it was clear that the membership was quite content with the president's leadership style. They dared not question or oppose the president. For me, it was a learning experience to witness how the membership of an historic Hawaiian organization consented to authoritarianism. In fact, the president was reelected to a second two-year term at this convention.
Struck Twice by Authoritarian Lighting
In 2019, I was struck by authoritarianism for the second time. This time, as the secretary of an historic Aloha ʻĀina association whose revival I had selflessly spearheaded and engineered for four years. The president had a tendency to want to govern like an executive officer rather than a presiding officer, and to disregard the adopted rules when desired. As parliamentary referee, I served as a check and balance whenever that would happen, by advising the board if something was not in order. Over the years, the president increasingly developed a personal grudge against me and would regularly go out of the way to defame me (character assassination).
The president's aggression escalated by cutting off all communication with me between meetings in connection with the interrelated duties of the president and secretary (akin to the pitcher refusing to throw to the catcher in baseball). Using a contrived pretext, the president underhandedly conspired with the second vice president to force me out of the office that I was elected and reelected to at successive conventions. I never fathomed that it was possible for one to outdo the dictatorial president I encountered in 2016, but the president in this case convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt. I felt treated like the proverbial goose (democracy), killed to get the golden eggs (authoritarianism).
Members Ultimately Determine if Governance is Democratic or Authoritarian
The reason I share the above two experiences (with dictators) is to show how I arrived at the following theory: Membership preparation for the meetings of an organization is directly related to the degree of democratic governance, and inversely related to the degree of authoritarian governance, that characterizes the organization. The less familiar members are with the governing documents of the organization, the less familiar members are with basic meeting procedures, and the less prepared members are for meetings (and conventions), the more potential they create for authoritarian governance. In other words, the more they create a vacuum for a dictator to step in. They tacitly consent to authoritarian governance of the organization. Consciously or unconsciously, they may even prefer authoritarian governance to democratic governance.
Alternatively, it could be that members choose to forgo the time and effort entailed in adhering to their rights and duties. Hence, they yield their decision-making responsibility to one or more officers, of which a presiding officer with a dictatorial tendency would gladly oblige, forming a silent conspiracy. Therefore, I contend that: The silent conspiracy within some organizations to adopt authoritarian governance is not uncommon in a country like the Hawaiian Islands, in which the population has been socialized by authoritarianism resulting from insurgency and ongoing belligerent occupation since 1887 (totaling 132 years at the time of this writing).
Na Keokani Kipona Marciel, Loea Lula Hoʻomalu
The Hawaiian patriotic societies of the 19th century succeeded in defeating annexation. The relative absence of such deliberative assemblies in the Lāhui today constitutes the status quo. Will the status quo be sufficient to deoccupy Ko Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina?
For a group to be a deliberative assembly, it must adhere to the generally accepted practices of democratic organizational procedure. In other words, parliamentary law. Democratic meeting procedures (rules of order) are the difference between a group and an organization; or between an affiliation of groups and an association of organizations.
To be organized permanently as a deliberative assembly (i.e., a democratic organization), a group must adopt governing documents, enroll members, elect officers, hold regular meetings, authorize a board of directors, and appoint committees where necessary. Each meeting is conducted by a presiding officer following an agreed-upon order of business, with the secretary present to keep a legal record of the proceedings.
Above all, the organization must expedite the orderly transaction of decisions during properly called meetings with a quorum present, while simultaneously protecting the rights of all members in the process. This provides for the general will of the membership to be expressed as official acts of the organization.
Resolutions adopted by a deliberative assembly constitute mandates that can be used for diplomatic action. This is a higher form of synergy compared to testimony provided at a public hearing, or discussion held by a panel of guest speakers—hallmarks of the status quo in the contemporary Lāhui. Furthermore, the mandate (synergy) of a resolution can be amplified if adopted by a convention of delegates elected by the local chapters of an association.
Deliberative assemblies may have become a lost art in our modern Lāhui, but therein lies the potential for a renaissance of the Hawaiian patriotic societies that our ancestors utilized to defeat annexation. What other way would it be possible for us to produce the sequel, which would be the deoccupation of Ko Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina?
If labor unions and political parties could succeed without adhering to parliamentary law, they wouldn't be organized as deliberative assemblies. Why should we as the Lāhui be any less organized than a labor union or a political party, in order to bring about the justice that we deserve?
KA PAIO HANOHANO