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Moving farewell to a great pioneer

Saturday 18 June 2011 | Published in Regional


The Cook Islands farewelled one of its most notable leaders at a moving state funeral yesterday morning.

Those who knew Sir Apenera Short turned up in droves to say aera ra to the last surviving member of the countrys first-ever Cabinet.

It was a day of great national sadness, said acting prime minister Tom Marsters in a poignant tribute speech.

But while it was a time to grieve, it was also a time to celebrate the gift from God that was the amazing life of Sir Apenera Short.

We gather here as one at this state funeral to acknowledge and farewell one of the finest sons of the Cook Islands, Marsters said.

Marsters described Sir Apenera as a fine man of remarkable national importance who spent most of his adult life serving the Cook Islands and its people.

He was no ordinary man he was a great politician and served his community with integrity, vision and dedication.

Sir Apenera was 49 when he entered the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly as a member of parliament for his district, Takitumu. The year was 1965, and it was a time of great change for our country, Marsters said.

Sir Apenera was chosen by Papa Arapati (Sir Albert Henry) to represent his people in the countrys first Cabinet a government body that would change the way Cook Islanders lived and perceived themselves, Marsters said.

That Cabinet made monumental changes to the way Cook Islanders lived, and saw the world, and themselves as decision-makers of their own destiny, Marsters said.

Sir Apenera, who was also a traditional leader and held the Takau Rangatira title, went on to enjoy a long political career.

Over the years, Sir Apenera held a number of portfolios, including police, agriculture, cooperatives, economic development, electricity, energy and broadcasting.

His eldest son Tupe says he was proudest of his work in the cooperatives, which enabled Cook Islands people to work for themselves, lease land and take out loans for homes, vehicles and farming equipment.

As a minister in government, many of Papa Apeneras dreams for our national improvement were realised. Groundbreaking initiatives became reality in successful national projects that gave Cook Islands men, women and youth paying jobs, put power and water in homes, kids in schools and meals on tables. We as a people and nation are still enjoying the fruits of the many trees that Papa Apenera planted, Marsters said yesterday.

Sir Apenera was appointed the highest office in the Cook Islands the Queens Representative in 1990. He was knighted in 1995, and served three terms as QR with honour and integrity, Marsters said.

But throughout his political career, Sir Apenera remained a humble man.

He never lost that common touch and he could speak easily with anyone and everyone, Marsters said.

Marsters laid the first wreath at Sir Apeneras funeral. His was followed by a succession of wreaths, laid by deputy leader of the opposition Wilkie Rasmussen, speaker of the house Sir Geoffrey Henry, president of the Are Ariki Travel Tou Ariki, New Zealand High Commissioner Linda Te Puni, Cook Islands Police, the Public Service Commissioners office, solicitor-general Tingika Elikana, the Ministry of Education, acting financial secretary Priscilla Maruariki, the Bahai church and government house.

Marsters asked the National Auditorium to pause, reflect and uphold Sir Apenera as an outstanding leader at the national, village, church and family levels.

But the cruel reality of our mortal lives is that in the end of it all, mans life is just a vapour, as the Bible says, to pass and be blown away. Now the packing shed buildings are gone. The plantations are overgrown. The machineries have rusted away. But although all that has gone, something of great value, as intangible as it is, has remained. That is the fine reputation and legacy of a man we had the privilege to know as Papa Apenera, Marsters said.

He concluded: He was truly an amazing man. He was a pioneer of huge energy. He was a hard worker and brought people along with him as a leader and visionary. He was a natural motivator. He had an overcoming spirit. We as a nation will remain forever grateful for the remarkable life of state service of one Sir Apenera Short, KBE.