11 Dec 2003

Cook Islands Party calls on PM to come clean over Lyon permit

4:54 pm on 11 December 2003

The opposition Cook Islands Party has called on the Prime Minister Dr Robert Woonton to explain details of the 12-month residency permit to New Zealander Mark Lyon.

CIP secretary general, Temu Okotai, says Cook Islanders are opposed to having a man of Lyon's criminal background living there.

Mr Okotai claims the 150 thousand New Zealand dollar bond paid by Lyon to secure residency will be used for campaign purposes by Dr Woonton's Democratic Party at the next general election.

He says the prime minister's decision to grant the permit after it was originally denied by the Principal Immigration officer reflects badly on the Cook Islands international image.

"That is for everybody here the sad result of what is being done by the prime minister and his chief advisor. Our image overseas is nothing much to recommend other than it should be good news for criminals with plenty of money if they are looking for a safe haven."

CIP secretary general Temu Okotai.

The president of the ruling Democratic Party, Iaveta Short, says his party is opposed to the Prime Minister's move.

Mr Short has dismissed claims his party's election campaign funds have been bolstered by the bond paid by Lyon.

He says he doesn't know where the bond is but he understands it's held in a trust account, and is still Lyon's money.

Mr Short is distancing himself and the party from Dr Woonton's decision.

We're appalled by that decision and our supporters are quite clearly stunned by it. I mean we didn't know about this until it came in the newspaper I think last week or the week before. There was a whole lot of talk about it until the prime minister finally made a statement in the newspaper that he made the decision to grant the permit and frankly, I thought that was a very bad decision.

The president of the Cook Islands Democratic Party, Iaveta Short

A public protest rally has been called for Friday over the issue.