10 Jul 2012

Cook Islands' Sir Terepai Maoate remembered as great leader

4:39 pm on 10 July 2012

The former Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Sir Terepai Maoate, has died aged 77, following a battle with prostate cancer.

The Cook Islands government says there is great sadness at the passing of one of its former leaders and a state funeral is being planned for Friday morning, Cook Islands time.

Sir Terepai was Prime Minister from 1999 to 2002, and a former leader of the Cook Islands Democratic Party.

One of Sir Terepai's six children, Dr. Kiki Maoate, says his father will be missed dearly, and will be remembered as always striving to do the best not just for his family but for the people he worked with.

"For the industries, for his country, and even for the region. And one of the key things about him is his integrity and his ability to be true to form, true to himself. You had so many detractors who always thought there was some agenda behind what he was trying to do but i think people just misread him and his drive to do what he thought was right for his people. At the end of the day he actually was about his people."

He says his father was never short of ideas, including setting up a local prostate cancer foundation, of which he was the president, to raise awareness of the diease following his own diagnosis.

The beauty about it is that we can tap into other foundations, of similar nature and activities like the Movember can be brought to the Cook Islands to support it and the people here, not just the men, but the families are very happy to actually have the foundation.

The current leader of the Cook Islands Democratic Party, Wilkie Rasmussen, says Sir Terepai was one of the pioneers of Cook Islands politics.

He says he was a fearsome fighter as a politician and a principled man who would stand his ground for what he believed in.

He says one of Sir Terepai's legacies as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance is that he ensured there are always reserve funds for the Cook Islands.

And he built that up from a period of time in politics where those reserve funds were used for other purposes and he made sure that these funds stayed there to build up a sort of back-up funding for the government, if I'm to say anything as a legacy from him that I remember clearly it's for that.

The president of the Cook Islands Democratic Party, Sean Willis, says Sir Terepai's hard work ethics as a medical doctor also translated into his political life.

He was doing long hours each day, doing about 90 hour week just attending functions plus carrying out his normal work and also doing his favourite past time as all the people know was planting. So he still carried on as a planter, fisherman and everything else whilst putting in the long hours as a politician. It is a big void, not only for the family but for the people of the Cook Islands.

The Democratic Party says the country has lost a great leader and a gentleman.

Sir Terepai's state funeral is scheduled for 9 am at the National Auditorium on Friday, Cook Islands time.