Thomas Davis (Cook Islands politician)

Sir Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis KBE (11 June 1917 – 23 July 2007)[1] was a Cook Islands statesman and medical researcher. He served as Prime Minister of the Cook Islands from 1978 to March 1983, and again from November 1983 to July 1987. He also worked as a medical officer, and as a medical researcher for the US Army and NASA. He was a founder of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and constructed and voyaged in several replica vaka, including Tākitumu and Te Au o Tonga.

Sir Thomas Davis
2nd & 4th Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
In office
16 November 1983 – 29 July 1987
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyGeoffrey Henry
Terepai Maoate
RepresentativeSir Gaven Donne
Graham Speight (Acting)
Sir Tangaroa Tangaroa
Preceded byGeoffrey Henry
Succeeded byPupuke Robati
In office
25 July 1978 – 13 April 1983
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyPupuke Robati
RepresentativeSir Gavin Donne
Preceded byAlbert Henry
Succeeded byGeoffrey Henry
Personal details
Born
Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis

11 June 1917
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Died23 July 2007(2007-07-23) (aged 90)
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationPhysiologist, politician

Early life and educationEdit

Davis was born on the island of Rarotonga and educated at King's College, Auckland.[2] He was the first Cook Islands medical graduate in New Zealand,[3] finishing his studies at the University of Otago in 1945.[2] He applied for the position of Medical Officer in the Cook Islands, and after multiple rejections due to racism from colonial officials, was eventually appointed.[4][5] As Medical Officer, he reorganised the country's health system, establishing a nursing school[3] and taking measures to control tuberculosis.[6] In 1948, after completing a post-graduate course in tropical medicine at the University of Sydney, he was appointed Chief Medical Officer.[6]: 65 

In 1952, he was invited to study at Harvard University in the United States.[4] He made the journey with his wife and children in a yacht, via Peru and the Panama Canal.[2] The journey was documented by his wife, Lydia Davis, in a series of articles published in New Zealand newspapers.[7] She reported that they were "welcomed at Boston like heroes".[8]

At Harvard Davis completed a Master of Public Health,[2] before joining the United States Department of Nutrition and worked for the US armed forces. In 1958 he was appointed Director of the Division of Environmental Medicine at the US Army's Fort Knox medical research laboratory.[9] He later joined NASA to work on the space programme[3] before working for Arthur D. Little as a research physician.[10]

Political careerEdit

Davis returned to the Cook Islands in 1971 to enter politics.[11] He founded the Cook Islands Democratic Party in 1971,[10][12] and was elected to the Legislative Assembly at the 1972 election, becoming leader of the opposition.[13] He was proposed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific in 1974,[14] ultimately losing to James Maraj. He was re-elected in the 1974 election.[15]

He initially lost his seat in the 1978 election,[16] but was reinstated after an election petition found that Prime Minister Albert Henry had corruptly used government money to fly in voters and secure a majority.[17] Davis was subsequently asked to form a government and was sworn in as Prime Minister.[18] One of his first actions as Prime Minister was to ban Czech-born "cancer therapist" Milan Brych from Rarotonga hospital[19] and bar him from returning to the Cook Islands.[20] As Prime Minister he pursued economic independence,[21] reduced the government deficit,[22] and unsuccessfully explored joining the Lomé Convention to obtain aid from the European Economic Community.[23][24] In 1979 he replaced the old flag of the Cook Islands of 15 yellow stars on a green background with the Cook Islands Ensign. In 1982, "Te Atua Mou E" was adopted as the national anthem of the Cook Islands, replacing "God Defend New Zealand". Davis wrote the music to "Te Atua Mou E" and his wife wrote the lyrics.[25]

After being defeated in the March 1983 election, Davis became leader of the opposition again. The defection of cabinet minister Tapui Henry from the government six months later forced a second election, which returned Davis to power.[26] In 1984 the defection of Vincent Ingram forced him into an uncomfortable coalition with the Cook Islands Party under Geoffrey Henry.[27] Henry subsequently left the coalition, but five MPs remained, providing Davis with a majority.[27]

In 1985 at a South Pacific Forum meeting he announced, mostly to gain local electoral kudos and in "bone-headed stupidity", that the Cooks would reconsider the relationship with New Zealand. David Lange, who disliked Davis, said if the Cooks wanted independence he would cut aid and remove New Zealand citizenship rights. Lange also said "We can probably throw in a second-hand Orion at a knock down rate so you can do your own maritime surveillance."[28] Following the collapse of ANZUS over New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy, Davis declared the Cook Islands' neutrality as New Zealand would be unable to defend it.[29] Davis subsequently opposed a New Zealand offer to hold military exercises in the Cook Islands to demonstrate its ability, but his opposition was overturned by Cabinet.[30]

On 3 August 1986[31] Davis became the first head of government to formally consult with the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing institution of the Baháʼí Faith.[32]

He was ousted as Prime Minister on 29 July 1987 after failing three times to pass a budget through Parliament.[33][27] He resigned as Democratic Party leader after losing his seat in parliament at the 1994 election.[34]

After leaving politics Davis advocated for a Polynesian Economic Community.[35] In 2004 he was appointed the Cook Island's High Commissioner to New Zealand.[36]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Davis's second wife, Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki, as a child in 1934

Davis co-authored the autobiographical Doctor to the Islands (1955) and the novel Makutu (1960) with his first wife, New Zealander Lydia Davis.[37] After divorcing her in June 1978, he married Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki, the paramount chief of the Takitumu tribe in the Cook Islands, in 1979.[5][38] She had nine children, three boys and six girls, from a previous marriage to George Ani Rima Peyroux. Pa Terito had become a Baháʼí in the 1950s; sometime after 1986, Davis joined the Baháʼí Faith.[32] In 2000, Davis married for a third time, to American Carla Cassata, but they separated ten months before his death.[39]

Davis was a keen sailor since childhood[2] and was interested in Polynesian navigation. In 1992 he built a replica of the vaka Tākitumu for the 6th Festival of Pacific Arts.[40] he later sailed it to Tahiti.[41] He was a founder of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society[42] and in 1994 led the design and construction of the vaka Te Au o Tonga,[43] which he then sailed to Samoa.[44] In 1998 he sailed aboard Nokia in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.[45][46]

Davis died in 2007 in Rarotonga, aged 90.[47]

Honours and awardsEdit

In 1977, Davis was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.[48] He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to medicine and the people of the Cook Islands, in the 1981 New Year Honours.[49] The University of Otago awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2005.[3]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Cook Islanders better off under Davis". Dominion-Post. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via PressReader.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Obituary: Sir Thomas Davis". New Zealand Herald. 27 July 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d "The conferment of the Degree of Laws, Honoris Causa, on Sir Thomas Davis" (PDF). University of Otago. 14 May 2005. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Sir Tom Davis - Premier - part 2 of 3". RNZ. 5 August 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Papa Tom Obituary". TVNZ. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  6. ^ a b Futter-Puati, Debbie (2010). "Dr Tom and TB 1945 – 1952". Maki Maro: Tuberculosis in the Cook Islands: A social history 1896 - 1975 (PDF) (MA). University of Auckland. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  7. ^ ""YACHT STILL STICKS TOGETHER"". The Press. 13 January 1953. p. 6. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via Papers Past.
  8. ^ "WELCOMED AT BOSTON LIKE HEROES". The Press. 19 January 1953. p. 6. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via Papers Past.
  9. ^ "Doctor to the islands in a New Post". Pacific Islands Monthly. XXIX (2). 1 September 1958. p. 142. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ a b "Opposition ahead for Cooks Premier". Pacific Islands Monthly. 42 (11). 1 November 1971. p. 31. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "TRIBUTE TO A POLYNESIAN RENAISSANCE MAN". Pacific Islands Report. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  12. ^ "All the fun of party politics in the Cooks". Pacific Islands Monthly. 43 (3). 1 March 1972. p. 24. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Premier Henry's star still shines but the lustre's dimmer". Pacific Islands Monthly. 43 (5). 1 May 1972. p. 22-23. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ Adishwar Padarath (18 September 1974). "South Pacific University to choose new leader". Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. p. 14. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "NEW YEAR BEGINS WITH A POLITICAL BANG IN THE COOKS". Pacific Islands Monthly. 46 (1). 1 January 1975. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "FALL OF THE HOUSE OF HENRY". Pacific Islands Monthly. 49 (9). 1 September 1978. p. 11-12. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Corruption ruling brings down Cook Islands Government". Canberra Times. 26 July 1978. p. 1. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "COOK ISLANDS New PM's background in medicine". Canberra Times. 26 July 1978. p. 5. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ "BAN ON HOSPITAL USE: Cooks PM moves against Brych". The Canberra Times. 27 July 1978. p. 5. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ "Brych 'not to return to islands'". The Canberra Times. 20 September 1978. p. 8. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ "DAVIS: ECONOMIC SELF-RELIANCE COMES FIRST". Pacific Islands Monthly. 49 (10). 1 October 1978. p. 23. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ "COOKS' DEFICIT DOWN". Pacific Islands Monthly. 50 (9). 1 September 1979. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ "Knocking on Lomé doors". Pacific Islands Monthly. 51 (9). 1 September 1980. p. 29. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "Cooks seek better links". Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. 18 May 1981. p. 6. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  25. ^ "People". Pacific Islands Monthly. 50 (9). 1 September 1979. p. 33. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  26. ^ Trevor Clarke (1 December 1983). "Mirror image change of government in the Cook Islands". Pacific Islands Monthly. 54 (12). p. 51-52. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  27. ^ a b c "Exit Sir Tom..." Pacific Islands Monthly. 58 (9). 1 September 1987. p. 38. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  28. ^ Laidlaw, Chris (1999). Rights of Passage – Beyond the New Zealand Identity Crisis. Auckland, N.Z.: Hodder Moa Beckett (Hachette New Zealand). p. 56. ISBN 9781869587239.
  29. ^ "Cook Islands now neutral". Canberra Times. 30 January 1986. p. 5. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  30. ^ "New Zealand flexes its military muscle in Cook Island peace games". Canberra Times. 7 August 1986. p. 6. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  31. ^ Thomas Pawlowski, J. (25 November 1996). "A Brief History of the Baha'i Faith". Unpublished academic articles and papers. Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Boise. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  32. ^ a b Hassall, Graham (1996). "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific – Issues and Prospects". Baháʼí Studies Review. Association for Baha'i Studies (English-speaking Europe). 6. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  33. ^ "Cook Islands: PM deposed after crisis". Canberra Times. 30 July 1987. p. 5. Retrieved 17 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  34. ^ "Victory for Henry". Pacific Islands Monthly. 64 (5). 1 May 1994. p. 15-16. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  35. ^ "United we stand". Pacific Islands Monthly. 67 (11). 1 November 1997. p. 30-31. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  36. ^ "NZ post for Sir Tom". New Zealand Herald. 23 April 2004 – via EBSCOHost.
  37. ^ Subramani, "South Pacific Literature: From Myth to Fabulation", 1992, p. 14.
  38. ^ "People". Pacific Islands Monthly. 50 (4). 1 April 1979. p. 32. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  39. ^ Florence Syme-Buchanan. "Cook Islands' Most Famous Son". SPasifik (74). Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  40. ^ Angela McCarthy (1 April 1992). "Ancient seafaring skills revived". Pacific Islands Monthly. 62 (4). p. 74-74. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  41. ^ "Sailing in the wake of the ancestors". Pacific Islands Monthly. 65 (7). 1 July 1995. p. 44. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  42. ^ "History of Voyaging". Cook Islands Voyaging Society. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  43. ^ "The Cook Islands Voyaging Society Strategic Plan 2018-2023" (PDF). Cook Islands Voyaging Society. p. 3. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  44. ^ "From the sublime to the absurd ... the Festival of Arts unveils its treasures". Pacific Islands Monthly. 66 (11). 1 November 1996. p. 51. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  45. ^ "81-year-old sailor looks for more challenges". Pacific Islands Monthly. 68 (14). 1 February 1999. p. 50. Retrieved 18 October 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  46. ^ "Vale Sir Tom Davis". Sail World. 29 July 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2021.
  47. ^ "Former Cook Islands PM dies". New Zealand Herald. 24 July 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  48. ^ Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 117. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  49. ^ "No. 48469". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 31 December 1980. p. 40.

Further readingEdit

  • Davis, Tom; Davis, Lydia (1954). Doctor to the islands. Little, Brown & Company.
  • Davis, Tom (1992). Island boy : an autobiography. University of South Pacific.