24 Jul 2007

Former Cook Islands prime minister, Sir Tom Davis, has died

3:29 pm on 24 July 2007

The former Cook Islands Prime Minister, Sir Tom Davis, has died aged 90 in Rarotonga.

Sir Tom is regarded as his country's greatest achiever as Johnny Blades reports.

"Sir Tom was the first Cook Islands medical graduate in New Zealand, studying at Otago in the early 1940s. He returned to Cook Islands to be the chief medical officer there before leaving to study at Harvard University in 1952. During his two decades in the United States, Sir Tom worked with NASA on the Apollo programme as a leader in research on man's ability to withstand extremes of space. Returning to the Cooks in 1971 Sir Tom helped found the Democratic Party and became Prime Minister in 1979. The current deputy Prime Minister Sir Terepai Maoate, who worked alongside him, says Sir Tom was the first to introduce economic reforms and is credited with making key improvements to the public health system. He remained Premier for 8 years, except for a brief period in 1983, and later took up the role of High Commissioner to New Zealand. The date for Sir Tom's state funeral is yet to be announced."