That’s according to his tribute, after he passed away on August 2.
But any controversy was yesterday put aside, as the whole island came to a halt to mark the passing of the respected leader. He was buried in a state funeral attended by government officials.
His tribute says: “His unpopularity as both a traditional and modern-day leader resulted in an unsuccessful challenge to his title in the early 2000s, removal of his status as an Ariki from the House of Ariki in Rarotonga, and his subsequent withdrawal from honorary membership to the Aitutaki Island Government administration.”
His association with a well-known Maori activist from New Zealand led him to question the status of the Arikis of the Cook Islands and their relationship with government; this eventually led to his fall from grace.
Later, he joined the Bahai Faith and eventually became president – but once again he drew criticism from family and supporters because of his Ariki status. “He was a leader who was often misunderstood and he eventually paid the price and consequences of loneliness and isolation, characteristics that often befall a good leader,” reads his eulogy.
In the past year, his attitude mellowed: his determination to see good happen for the people balanced by awareness of the challenges that lay ahead.
He was preparing to return to the House of Ariki and the Aitutaki Island Government: “And so he leaves behind unfinished business – what he called ‘the challenge of my life’ … his final legacy was to resolve outstanding conflicts within his family, the title and Ui Ariki of Aitutaki.”
Araura College performed a guard of honour, stretching from the Post Office to the Cook Islands Christian Church. The students sang an old island song ‘Koe Araura’ when the casket left the Island Councils Chamber.
He leaves behind his wife Tukoe, his children, grandchildren and their families.