AMERICAN SPROUTERS CALL COOK ISLANDS LOCALS "COMPLETE IDIOTS"

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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (January 25, 2000 – Cook Islands Star)---Cook Island Star readers will recall in our December issue the hard to believe story of how the Development Investment Board in Raro approved work and residency permits for two Americans so they could buy a big house on the hill above Muri lagoon and grow bean sprouts.

(SEE: Cook Islands Lifestyle For Sale: Cheap. Sprouts ‘R’ Us and Letter to the Editor)

If that were not outrageous enough, DIB gave two more permits to two more yanks to assist in this great financial bonanza for the Cook Islands.

We told you to stand by for even stranger news and sure enough it is upon us.

We received this outraged response from the sprouters:

"I’d like to inform you of the COMPLETELY erroneous information you have printed... it’s sunflower sprouts, not bean sprouts. We do not grow them in jars, but rather in organic soil... The management team we are bringing in next month is to assist us in setting up a potential export operation to New Zealand and Tahiti... you have made complete idiots of yourselves by publishing such garbage. In the future... get your facts straight... signed Lorraine Katena, Mythos International."

AMERICANS NOT TALKING

We rushed a series of questions to Mythos International, eager to "get our facts straight."

Here’s the reply:

"Thank you for your response to my note. We don’t have any more time to waste with your publication. Sincerely, Lorraine Katena. Mythos International."

Since our story appeared and as if by magic, Rarotonga is awash in sprouts. No, not bean sprouts, but pumpkin seed sprouts. After eight months in the Cook Islands and not a sprout in sight, three days after CIStar broke the story, sprouts appeared in markets on Rarotonga.

FOUR ‘PAPAAS’ MAKE $800 ‘INVESTMENT’

We asked Mythos how much money they invested in growing these sprouts.

They apparently don’t want you to know, so we had someone check it out.

According to our investigator, "It’s a series of boxes stacked up very neatly, full of soil and well designed for the project. The whole thing is about the size and bulk of a large van. It would appear to have cost about $800 to build."

That’s no typo readers. It’s an $800 investment.

We asked several business people in the Cook Islands, including some involved in agricultural enterprises, what they thought of this revelation.

The most telling response came from one local grower who said, "Aue! This can’t be for real. Four ‘papaa’s,’ an $800 investment, and pumpkin seed sprouts."

WHERE’S THE ART STUDIO?

CIStar understands that the original DIB approval was not just for sprouting seeds, but was to include some sort of artist studio. In the same way that we could find no evidence of sprouts for sale before our first article was published, we can find no evidence of any art studio, artwork or anything of the kind on Rarotonga. The Americans won’t tell us where we can find this studio.

We believe that the approval for the second two Americans to live in the Cook Islands related somehow to the art studio aspect, but Mythos now claims the two new yanks are a "management team" seeking to sell pumpkin seed sprouts overseas.

DIB NOT TALKING

We put a series of questions to Rohan Ellis, CEO of DIB, on the ‘investment’ in question. We only received this response: "The DIB has not registered any foreign enterprise specializing in Bean Sprouts."

DIB appears to be as confused as CIStar by the vital difference between a bean and a pumpkin sprout.

CIStar put some questions to the Minister responsible for DIB, the Hon. Dr. Robert Woonton, along with the questions we are still waiting for DIB itself to answer.

We asked Dr. Woonton if it is appropriate for DIB to allow investors into the Cook Islands whose only goal is a "lifestyle."

Dr. Woonton, unlike DIB’s Ellis, has found time to respond and reminded us that many of our important tourist accommodation properties were created by foreigners "seeking a lifestyle, not wealth."

We did not ask the Minister his opinion of those "lifestylers" who do not build hotels, but who instead invest $800 sprouting pumpkin seeds. Once DIB finds the time to answer our questions, we can bring you the remainder of Minister Woonton’s response.

Another local who has been following the story offered this comment, "Any ‘papaa’ who calls a Cook Islander a complete idiot because he reported beans sprouts instead of sunflower sprouts has no place in our culture or in our islands. This is the kind of arrogant, colonialist attitude that makes every indigenous Cook Islander resent foreigners.

There are tons of ‘papaas’ who have adapted to life here, who respect our culture and who themselves become ‘Cook Islanders’ over time. DIB should be filtering out those who cannot respect this paradise."

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