27 Oct 2010

Cook Islands Agriculture Ministry denies tractor allegations

8:14 am on 27 October 2010

The Cook Islands Agriculture Ministry is denying tractors are being dispersed to constituencies around the country to coincide with the election campaign.

The Cook Islands Party says the government's dispersal of 25 tractors prior to next month's election may breach the electoral act which states that anything given to influence the way a person votes constitutes bribery.

But the Secretary of Agriculture, Anthony Brown, says China donated the tractors for an agriculture revitalisation programme following diplomatic talks in 2007.

Anthony Brown says it has taken time for China to make and ship the tractors, and they will not be distributed to constituencies prior to the election

"It wasn't until two weeks ago until when the engineers arrived to assemble these machineries. And while they are assembling it they will remain in depot indefinitely, but certainly until after the elections for obvious reasons."

Anthony Brown says the Ministry will assign the tractors to growers associations to empower people in the outer islands to produce crops for Rarotonga.