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Voyagers honour peace fleet leader

Tuesday 14 April 2015 | Published in Local


Voyagers honour peace fleet leader
Cook Islands Voyaging Society members (pictured) have honoured newly knighted criminal lawyer, Sir Peter Williams QC.

The Cook Islands Voyaging Society has paid tribute to newly-knighted Sir Peter Williams for his role 20 years ago in protesting against France’s nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Sir Peter led a peace flotilla of New Zealand yachts which sailed to Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia to protest against the final series of French nuclear tests.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister at the time, Sir Geoffery Henry approached the Cook Islands Voyaging Society to join the protest and help to persuade the French to end the testing.On July 20, 1995, the Cook Islands government and parliament unanimously endorsed sending a traditional voyaging vaka to Mururoa to protest at the resumption of French nuclear testing.

Sir Geoffrey told a Greenpeace delegation at an official reception that the vaka would best symbolise the opposition of Polynesians to nuclear tests. Vaka Te Au O Tonga, captained by Tua Pittman, sailed to meet the fleet, representing the Cook Islands and Pacific Island Nations at the protest.

When Te Au Tonga reached the 12 mile zone they were greeted by 100 yachts.

One of New Zealand's most high-profile criminal lawyers and a life-long champion of prisoners' rights, Sir Peter was knighted in a special ceremony at his home in Auckland.

He was to be officially knighted next month, but due to his ailing health, his investiture was fast-tracked.

For Sir Peter, the spirit is still willing, but the body is letting him down.

“There are tremendous things to be done and it makes me angry that I just don't have the strength anymore,” he said.