Ruben Zackhras, a member of the first RMI Nitijela and one of the longest-serving elected leaders in the history of this country, died in Hawaii Wednesday this week. He was 71. Zackhras had been battling cancer for months, though he continued to carry out his duties as ambassador to Fiji until recently.
Until he lost his bid for reelection to Nitijela in 2015, he was among an elite trio of members serving since the start of Nitijela — that includes former Presidents and Senators Kessai Note and Litokwa Tomeing — the longest serving members of parliament. First elected in 1979 for Ailinglaplap, Zackhras served nine consecutive terms in Nitijela.
While in Nitijela, he served in numerous Cabinet positions. But his involvement in RMI politics predates election to Nitijela. He was elected to the first Constitutional Convention in 1977 and then elected by the convention as its president. He presided over the body that developed and ultimately endorsed the current RMI Constitution.
President Hilda Heine named Zackhras ambassador to Fiji, a post he held until his death this week. The government will hold a state funeral for Zackhras and flags will be flown at half mast once arrangements are made for the return of his remains to Majuro.
He is survived by his wife Rothie, and children Eominta, Sharon, Wise, Nanie, Isaac and Ruben Jr. One son, Mattlan, died in 2017.