Police Commissioner Maara Tetava said it was only right that outgoing Prime Minister Henry Puna was given a farewell fit for the statesman he is by the Cook Islands Police Service.
When outgoing Prime Minister Henry Puna was a child growing up on Aitutaki, his first real hero was a police man.
“I got close to my uncle who was a police man, because I felt safe,” he said.
Those experiences cemented his respect for the police force and the selfless job they do as protectors of the communities they serve.
The Prime Minister made these comments during his speech at a special farewell parade for him and his wife Akaiti, organised by Police Commissioner Maara Tetava and the Cook Islands Police Service.
He likened the role of a police officer to that of the Prime Minister and said although the jobs can often make them easy targets for criticism, he reminded members of the police about the importance of serving the people.
“It takes a lot of courage to disregard criticism. Don’t feel bad when people only need you when they are in trouble,” he said.
“When you believe what you are doing is right nothing will affect you. Don’t take criticism to heart.”
Bishop Tutai Pere said Puna had made history as the first leader of the nation to step aside and allow the next generation to take over.
“It is a mark of his faith, not only in those who will take up the position, but in himself and knowing when the time had come to step down,” he said.
In an emotional speech, Police Commissioner Maara Tetava said he had spent the last few days writing then rewriting his speech – trying to find the words to best capture the man who has served his country and people with care, love and dignity.
Tetava said there were times while travelling with the Prime Minister that he sat back in awe of the way he could converse with anyone no matter who they were.
In the wake of the Christchurch Earthquake in 2011, Puna was in Wellington in New Zealand and because of other engagements, asked Tetava to go to Christchurch to meet with Cook Islanders living there on his behalf.
“Of course when the Prime Minister asks you don’t say no – you say yes Sir,” he said.
It gave Tetava the opportunity to be in Auckland for the birth of his grandson, a moment he will be eternally grateful for.
“When I look at my grandson, he reminds me of the Prime Minister,” he said.
The relationship between Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister was more than just a working one, it has developed into a strong friendship.
“Thank you for leading your nation to becoming the best little paradise in the world,” he said.
The Prime Minister confirmed that he is officially stepping down as leader of the country today and handing the mantle onto Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown.
“I leave the office with a heavy heart, because there is unfinished business but it has truly been a privilege,” he said.
“But I also leave feeling good knowing that I’ve done the best I can for our country.”