Cooks leaders blocked from telling EU it's not welcome

Traditional Cook Islands leaders say they've been prevented from expressing their opposition to a fisheries agreement to European Union officials at a public meeting.

Under the agreement the Cook Islands will receive almost $US7-million for allowing four European purse seiners to fish for skipjack tuna.

Traditional leader William Framhein said they had intended to deliver a message to EU officials at a public meeting Wednesday night to keep out of their seas.

But he says they were told by Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown that he would not expose the EU representatives to them.

"We're gutted, disappointed and we've made it known to the Minister that basically the Government has snubbed us as traditional leaders and has no respect for our custom," said Framhein.

William Framhein said they were only able to give their message to Marine Resources Secretary Ben Ponia.

Photo: Flo Syme Buchanan (Cook Islanders march to decry the Prime Minister Henry Puna and his government's deal with the European Union on purse seine fishing).