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Former governor devoted much of his life to Polynesians

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, March 15, 2009) – A large number of friends and politicians were expected to attend Sunday's funeral and burial services in Tahiti's south coast district of Mataiea, paying a final farewell to Tinomana Ebb, a key political figure for some 30 years.

"Milou", as everyone called him, was accorded the ultimate respect among Tahitians in Saturday's two French language daily newspapers. Both of them used the Tahitian word "Tavana", or leader, to describe Ebb, who died Friday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 74 years old.

Ebb was another of the former long-serving mayors in French Polynesia to die recently. He served as mayor of Tahiti's south coast Commune of Teva i Uta for 24 years—from 1977-2001. He also served the same length of time as mayor of Mataiea (2007 pop. 4,443), which along with the other Associate Commune of Papeari (pop. 4,148) form Teva i Uta.

Today, Ebb's daughter, Valentina Cross, is the mayor of Teva i Uta and Mataiea.

Condolences for Ebb's family poured in from leaders of all Tahiti's political parties. "To the Tavana, I want to say that your people will never forget you," said French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru.

"To the former (French Polynesia) Assembly representative and speaker, I want to say that your energy will remain in our memories for a long time. To the father, I want to say, without hesitation, that you can be proud of your daughter, who walks in your footsteps and does you honor," Temaru said.

For today's assembly speaker, Edouard Fritch, "Milou" leaves behind the memory "of a man who devoted the essential part of his life to (French) Polynesians. Always close to the people and his rural origins, he spent nearly 25 years as mayor of Teva i Uta, before retiring in 2001 for health reasons."

Ebb is remembered as a farmer who became a politician, joining up in the 1970s with fellow farmer John Teariki of Moorea, who, along with Francis Sanford and Jean Juventin, founded the Here Ai'a (Love of the Land) political party in 1965.

Sanford became the first French Polynesia Government Council Vice President in nearly 19 years in 1977. Juventin served as mayor of French Polynesia's capital of Papeete for 18 years, from 1977-1995, and served six one-year terms as assembly speaker over a seven-year period from 1988-1995.

And it was Ebb who succeeded Juventin as assembly speaker in 1995, the summit of Milou's 36-year political career. Ebb won a six-year seat in the assembly four times from 1977-2001.

He also was in charge of public health and social affairs from 1978-1979 as a member of Sanford's government. During the early 1980s Ebb participated in the creation of Tahiti's first and only hydroelectric company in his Commune of Teva i Uta. A year after the company was renamed Marama Nui, Ebb became the first board chairman, overseeing the alternative development of electricity for the island of Tahiti.

Ebb's role with the Here Ai'a political party and the Sanford-Teariki leadership put him on the opposite side of the political fence from Gaston Flosse, who, as leader of the Tahoera'a Huiraatira (Popular Rally) political party, dominated Tahiti's political stage from 1984-2004.

But like many mayors who realized that in order to obtain funds from Tahiti's Flosse-controlled governments during that period, Ebb poured some water in his wine and made political peace with Flosse in 1997 by joining the Tahoera'a Huiraatira party.

A heart attack in December 2000 required Ebb to be transferred to New Zealand for treatment. He returned to Tahiti to campaign for re-election a third time as Teva i Uta mayor in 2001. But one of his assistant mayors, Victor Doom, won the first round of voting. Ebb decided it was time to end his political career and withdrew his list of candidates from the second round.

But when his daughter ran for mayor in 2008, Ebb, suffering from lung cancer, campaigned for her and helped Ms. Cross win the second round of voting, defeating Doom.

Ebb was born on Oct. 27, 1934. He spent his childhood growing up in the Leeward Islands, but later moved to Mataiea, where he spent the rest of his life. Ebb and his wife Pâquerette had four children and some 20 grandchildren.

Funeral services were scheduled for Sunday at the Tarema Protestant Church in Mataiea. They were to be followed by burial services at the Mataiea Town Cemetery.


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