5 Feb 2005

Cook Islands Democratic Party counters criticism from Tahiti

7:13 am on 5 February 2005

A former campaign manager for one of the two coalition parties in the Cook Islands has hit back at criticism from French Polynesia.

The Cook Islands Democratic Party official Sam Crocombe says he's very concerned about comments by the French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse.

Mr Crocombe says he saw television footage of Mr Flosse describing the Cook Islands as being 10 to 20 years behind Tahiti, and that people there were poor, driving old trucks and living in old houses.

Mr Flosse told supporters in Tahiti that voting for his rival, the former president Oscar Temaru, would lead French Polynesia down the same track as the Cook Islands.

Mr Crocombe says it's not the first time that Gaston Flosse has used the Cook Islands in scare tactics.

He says many visiting Tahitians are surprised to see lots of new cars and buildings when they visit Rarotonga.

French Polynesia is currently in the lead up to by-elections in the largest constituencies of Tahiti and Moorea.

The French Polynesian official, Max Tairea, has been invited to appear in a radio talkback programme in Rarotonga this morning to answer criticism from Gaston Flosse.