News Item

Pacific region pays tribute to Niue's 'fierce advocate', Sir Toke Talagi

Media 22 Jul 2020

Hailed as 'a Pacific icon', former Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi passed away on 15 July 2020, following a long battle with health issues.

Sir Toke will be laid to rest on Monday 27 July after his family finishes its 14-day self-quarantine. In a statement, the family acknowledged medical staff and the Pacific communities for their care and support for Sir Toke.

Elected Premier in 2008, Sir Toke had collective ambitions for the region, advocating for climate change reforms and calling for action on emission reduction.

In 1981 to 1984, he was Niue's first Consul General in Auckland and held portfolios in finance, economics, telecommunications, education, environment and external affairs.

A number of Pacific leaders have expressed their condolences, taking to social media and news outlets to remember his achievements and pride for Niue.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recalled their last conversation.

"We talked about Niue's Covid response, the people of Niue and his recent book. He was fiercely proud of Niue, and rightly so. It was a place he dedicated his life and service to."

Fellow Niuean and former Pacific Community Director-General, Dr. Colin Tuikuitonga told RNZ that Sir Toke will always be remembered for his determination.

"I think Toke was one of those unusual Niueans, he was very determined, he built himself a business enterprise from nothing. I guess you could say, and he was always someone who thought outside of the box."

"He was always creative, he believed fiercely in Niue and Niueans doing more for themselves. I think he was rather impatient for some of the things that was going on and I know he did a lot, particularly for tourism in his term as Premier."

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said Sir Toke championed Pacific values.

"Pacific values of family, collectivism, reciprocity and respect. These values were never more apparent than during his passionate advocacy and leadership on issues which presented unique challenges to the communities of Small Island States to which Niue and Cook Islands both belong."

"His unwavering activism in encouraging vigorous health initiatives, including addressing the serious threat posed by Non-Communicable Diseases to the wellbeing of our Pacific people has been long supported by our Government and will continue to be a central part of our overall regional health agenda," Mr. Puna continued.

"The realisation of the Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area, the second largest marine protected reserve in the Pacific, is another key accomplishment of Sir Toke's enduring leadership."

Incumbent Niue Premier Dalton Tagelagi who served in Sir Toke's past two cabinets, said that his predecessor was a dedicated politician but above all, a devoted family man.

"The country mourns the loss of a cherished son and great leader. His legacy lives on with the work he has completed for our small island nation. He will be remembered for his dedication to Niue and his commitment to a prosperous Niue - Niue ke Monuina. His passion was the promotion of the Niuean language and education of our young people, the future leaders of Niue."

Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy who invested Sir Toke with his knighthood in 2017 also acknowledged his advocacy to promoting the Niuean language.

"I pay particular tribute to the resurgence of the Niuean language and culture that flourished under his leadership."