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Albert Henry was regarded as the godfather of Cook Islands politics.

Photo/Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific Region

'Godfather of modern politics in the Cook Islands' late Albert Henry pardoned

Albert Henry was instrumental in the Cook Islands becoming self-governing and was elected as the country's first Premier in 1965.

RNZ Pacific
03 November 2023, 8:38am
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Cook Islands first premier, the late Albert Henry, has been given a formal pardon by the King's representative Sir Tom Marsters in Rarotonga on Thursday.

Albert Henry was instrumental in the Cook Islands becoming self-governing and was elected as the country's first Premier in 1965.

After 13 years in power, he was charged and pleaded guilty to electoral offences in 1978 and he was stripped of his knighthood in 1980.

In a statement regarding the posthumous pardon, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said although it has taken "far too long" it was fitting on the eve of the country hosting the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum leaders next week.

"Fitting", he said, because of Henry's part in championing the establishment of the South Pacific Forum five decades ago, the body which was to become today's Pacific Islands Forum.

"In August this year, Executive Council approved the decision for the King's Representative to pardon Papa Arapati [Henry], following the recommendation of the Chair of the Parole Board, Chief Justice Patrick Keane, under process clarified as a result of the amendment in Parliament to the Criminal Records Act 1991 in June," according to the Cook Islands PM's office.


"This is the first pardon to be exercised by the King's Representative.

"The Board had received from the Minister of Corrective Services, the application by Papa Arapati's grandson Howard Henry for the posthumous pardon."

The office said Henry was regarded "as the Godfather of modern politics in the Cook Islands."

"We cannot continue to deny Papa Arapati the acknowledgement and credit he so rightfully deserves as he led our country during a time of great political transformation," Brown said.

"He was a man of tremendous oratory skill in both Maori and English, at a time when we as a people needed our voices heard, he spoke eloquently for all of us.

"For our people, his long list of notable and outstanding achievements and his extraordinary life impacted thousands of Cook Islanders at home and around the world.

"The tireless work he did in advocating for our independence and sovereignty, for the right of Cook Islanders to elect their own government, to govern ourselves as a nation of 15 islands for the benefit of our people, these are the things that Papa Arapati is remembered for," he added. - RNZ Pacific