The Prime Minister has paid tribute to two prominent and respected members of the community who passed away last week.
Inatio Akaruru and Kura Strickland, who both hailed from the outer islands, rose through the political ranks to become Cabinet Ministers.
Akaruru, affectionately known as Papa Inatio, was born on Pukapuka in 1937.
He worked for the Cook Islands Government as a medical records officer in the Health Department, before being elected to parliament in 1968.
As a stalwart of the Cook Islands Party and long-term member for Pukapuka/Nassau, he eventually became Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
Prime Minister Henry Puna said Papa Inatio helped spearhead a tremendous wave of growth in the country’s diplomatic relations and engagement in international organisations.
“He was keenly involved in a number of key development areas and played a strong role in advocating the Cook Islands’ interests.
Papa Inatio was a solid anchor of support in the Cabinet of the late Sir Geoffrey Henry and oversaw tremendous change over the years.”
He was also a former Minister of Police, notably receiving the patrol boat Te Kukupa from the Australian Government in 1989.
Puna also honoured Papa Kura Strickland as “a firm community man” who upheld the interests of his people throughout his distinguished service to the country.
Born on Aitutaki in December 1929, Papa Kura worked for the Cook Islands Trading Company and Internal Affairs Department before entering politics in 1978.
Papa Kura was a loyal member of the Cook Islands Party and represented Amuri-Ureia, in Aitutaki.
“His tenure as a minister was marked by his willingness to address social issues and concerns wherever he could. Papa Kura was a dignified representative of the people and was recognised accordingly when he received his OBE (for services to the community),” Puna said.
Puna said both men contributed strongly to the development and growth of the Cook Islands throughout their political careers.
He conveyed his condolences to the men’s families and said they would be remembered fondly.
The Cook Islands Police Service and its commissioner Maara Tetava also extended their condolences to the men’s families.