HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Farewell Sir Terepai Maoate
Five years ago the Queen, Her Royal Highness Elizabeth II bestowed upon the then Cook Islands Minister of Finance Sir Terepai Maoate the title of Knight of the British Empire. This is to honour a son of Takitumu and Aitutaki for his services to the people of the Cook Islands particularly in the areas of health and politics.
Today we witnessed his passing away, apparently after saying goodbye to his sons and according to one of them “Dad simply decided to stop breathing”. This was on Sunday evening which was an appropriate and symbolic time to leave – ending of the week, Sunday evening after the church services and of course after family gatherings and pleasantries in anticipation of the new day.
As Leader of the Opposition and Acting Leader of the Democratic Party, the two positions that Sir Terepai held for the greater part of a decade, I along with my fellow caucus members has been waiting for this dark and gloomy day. We, along with the rest of the nation know that he has been sick and the doctors have given him a timeframe where he will leave this world. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and typical of the man, he turned his situation into an attempt by him to educate Cook Islanders of the disease. He successfully persuaded the Health department to facilitate the setting up of the Cook Islands Prostate Foundation that he chairs.
Sir Terepai is a great man and literally towers over his peers in the Cook Islands and the Pacific. He was a man with steely determination and a passion for the people of these islands of ours. His personality and character had already been shaped before he came into politics where we clearly saw the might of Sir Terepai at work. In politics he was a tough negotiator and stuck to his principles to the end.
I was fortunate to have worked with him in my early years in politics when he assumed the Leader of the Opposition job. There was then no funding from Government for such an office and the party in Opposition funded its operations. We worked together until he became Prime Minister of the Cook Islands in 1999 and I was then appointed as Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand in 2000. We went our different paths and he was Prime Minister with distinction until 2002 when the rigours of deal-making and coalition governments saw him lose his Prime Minister.
I would say that his greatest legacies in Cook Islands politics were his determination to build reserve funds for the Cook Islands and his leadership in the negotiations for the long outstanding loans with the Italian Government with regard to the Sheraton Hotel to be written off. We are the better off for it because the country was able to secure more development loans from the Asian Development Banks and several other donor countries. If anything, the list of development projects that the previous Democratic Party Government was able to undertake and are currently being completed by the current Government directly stemmed from this lifting of the bad debt label on the country.
I want to say to Lady Marito, the sons and daughters and grandchildren of Sir Terepai Maoate and to his family at large that a “great man with vision lived amongst us and you should all be proud of him”. Takitumu has lost a son and father, Aitutaki has lost a visionary and the Cook Islands have lost a father.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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