Friday 11 May 2012 | Published in Regional
Cook Islands leaders, prominent sportspeople and other well-wishers will gather at the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Cultural Centre in Rarotonga today to farewell its namesake and long-serving politician Sir Geoffrey Henry.
The National Auditorium will act as the day’s main centre for ceremonies celebrating and reflecting on the life and achievements of Sir Geoffrey, who died at his Takuvaine family home on Wednesday morning after succumbing to cancer.
The service at the National Auditorium will begin at 11am and include tributes from Prime Minister Henry Puna, Opposition Leader Wilkie Rasmussen and Sir Geoffrey’s son Walter Henry.
Rasmussen yesterday joined in an outpouring of memories in remembrance of Sir Geoffrey, describing the 71-year-old as his role model and a man who was a ”remarkable orator, thinker, philosopher and incredibly knowledgeable about the world and indeed about the intricacies of life and culture in the Cook Islands“.
”I aspired to be like him because of his great ability to inspire people through his speeches and thoughts,“ Rasmussen said.
”I applauded with him when he asserted the issues of Cook Islands sovereignty to New Zealand and within the Forum countries.
”I stood in spirit with him when he shaped out the economic and political destiny of this beautiful country of ours. I saluted at him when he reminded people of the evils and ongoing connotations of colonialism.“
Rasmussen said that Sir Geoffrey had the makes of an uncompromising warrior, traits that both helped and hindered him.
Overall, their relationship was one of respect and admiration.
Former Premier of Niue Mititaiagimene Young Vivian described Sir Geoffrey as being a beacon not only for the Cook Islands, but the whole of the Pacific.
”(He was) an incredible and outstanding Pacific leader and friend, and has been called to rest with honour and dignity,“ Vivian said.
”A rare pillar of strength and beacon of hope for his people and all of us in Polynesia and the region.“
The Cook Islands Voyaging Society, meanwhile, was lamenting the loss of their patron.
President Ian Karika said Sir Geoffrey was instrumental in revitalising the vaka tradition in the Cook Islands and the voyaging community would sorely miss him.
”E te Rangatira, kua tarai koe e kua a’u koe to Pahi e kua oti, te teretu atu nei koe ki to kaveinga nui,“ Karika said.