Looking at photos or any slight reminder of his son, Mona Ioane Sr can’t stop the tears from rolling down his face.
It still hurts to talk about his boy, but keeping his memory alive, so no other parents have to endure what he and his wife have, is what motivates him.
Now, for the first time, he wants to publicly address the issues that resulted in the premature and unnecessary death of his son: what he calls a dangerous drinking culture, and motorcyclists not wearing helmets.
He is speaking out ahead of a motorbike rally planned for the opening of Parliament on Monday, in opposition to helmets.
Some people say, it’s the parents’ fault when their children go off the rails, but Ioane disagrees.
Every time Mona Jr wanted to go anywhere he went to his dad – mostly to ask for money. “I always used to talk to him and tell him to be safe,” he said.
At 14 years old Mona was a typical teenage boy, full of energy who liked to push the boundaries, his father said.
But he and his wife treat all their children the same. If they played up they were disciplined. Mona Jr wasn’t “spoiled”.
On Saturday January 25, while he and his wife were in bed, Mona Jr rolled a motorbike down the driveway of their family home.
A few other family members were having a quiet gathering about two metres away from where the bikes were parked and no one heard or saw anything.
The next time Ioane saw his son was the following morning, his body lying at the hospital.
Not being able to touch his boy is a memory Ioane will never be able to erase. “I wasn’t going to be told I couldn’t touch my son, so I gave him a kiss,” he said.
Ioane doesn’t hold back when talking about the drinking culture that he believes exists in Rarotonga.
“Drinking and smoking are huge problems among our people,” he said.
“I’ve been working with a boy who has a drinking problem, he gets violent and loses control. But the reason I’ve taken him is because he didn’t start it, he learnt it. Our children are getting exposed to it all their lives.”
On Friday morning, Ioane felt compelled to ring into talkback radio.
There was a caller slamming Prime Minister Henry Puna about the debate around the Transport Amendment Act and Section 86A making helmets compulsory for all motorbike users.
He said people opposing the change to the legislation, who are planning to stage a protest at parliament on Monday next week, need to realise that helmets do save lives.
“It happened to me, my son lost his life because he wasn’t wearing a helmet,” Ioane said.
As a former police officer Ioane has also witnessed carnage on the roads, drink and speeding drivers and lives lost.
He is a huge supporter of reinstating community policing and said it would alleviate some of the strain of police personnel and resources.
When he spoke at Mona Jr’s church service, he said he wasn’t addressing the adults in the audience.
“I was talking to the kids.”
Ioane agreed to appear on TV advertising campaigns and a Foundation is being set up in Mona Jr’s name.
Life goes on but it doesn’t get any easier, Ioane said.
For months after his death, Mona Jr’s friends would gather at his graveside every day after school.
The Ioanes’ older son is returning from Perth; he can’t handle being in Australia alone without his family.
Their daughter was supposed to go back to Waikato University, but she is still here by her parents.
“Our family will never be the same again. My son’s death had an impact on so many. Through his memory he has changed a lot of lives.”