Sir Bob and I have something in common

Tuesday February 13, 2018 Written by Published in Opinion

Sir Bob Jones, if I may say so, is a fellow newspaper columnist.


But he swims in a huge ocean. As for me, I am just a small fish in a small pond, although a client of mine (I am also a lawyer), once commented that I was a big fish in a small pond. Her confidence in me certainly boosted my own confidence.

Anyway, it seems Sir Bob, a very rich man and a well-known property tycoon, is in very hot water having written things about Maori people that were most uncomplimentary and considered racist by some.

So much so, a petition has been organised against him. The petitioners want the New Zealand government to strip Sir Bob of his knighthood. I think about 40,000 signatures have been collected so far. That probably includes Cook Islanders who posted their disgust at the transgressions by this “Black Knight” (though of course he is papa’a) on Facebook.

Sir Bob and I have one thing in common. Both he and I love boxing. In the past Sir Bob has put his money behind a number of Pacific Island boxers such as the “Great Monty Betham”, father of Monty Junior, also a famous boxer and rugby league player.

Young Monty came to Rarotonga several years ago to do exhibition fights to raise money for charity. Sir Bob also put his money behind, a notable Tongan heavyweight called Young Sekona. I understand he also put money behind former New Zealand heavyweight David Tua and reigning world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. Parker is soon to fight Anthony Joshua of Great Britain, who holds a different heavyweight belt.

I wish I was rich like Sir Bob, but sadly I’m not. I’m just a poor struggling lawyer, working for free most of the time for the less fortunate in our community. Nor am I a property tycoon. I met Sir Bob when I was the Cook Islands High Commission in Wellington in the year 2000 and I found him to be an amiable, likeable, opinionated and humorous man. I liked him immediately. He probably forgot about me almost immediately after that night at the diplomatic function he and I were attending. Of course I was then just a “brown suit” in the greater ocean that Sir Bob swims in.

As a writer, I have always loved reading Sir Bob’s columns in the NZ Listener magazine, along with those of the late Maori academic, Professor Ranginui Walker. Both were controversial and thought-provoking. I remember Walker was a tough critic of pakeha education curriculums and systems, who often protested on the premise that New Zealand governance was based on pakeha values, disregarding Maori views. And although he sounded very anti-Pakeha, he qualified that he was never racist and indeed his wife was Pakeha.

Sir Bob was controversial from the other perspective, the Pakeha one. He certainly was not in favour of Maori claiming separate treatment because of their different values and also because they were “tangata whenua”, indigenous to Ao-tea-roa, New Zealand.

I have to admit that lately, I have also been under siege somewhat for my views and observations.

I got hammered by John Scott, a self-acclaimed expert on matters political in the Cook Islands but who got rather personal with his criticism. Then a former politician, now on the rubbish heap, hightailed me out of the “blue corner” for no real reason that I could think of other than personal jealousy. I thought we were in the same camp - although perhaps I should not rest easy when the man has the word “treachery” engraved on his forehead. And then an Esther Honey director based in the US, lambasted me for my truthful revelations about his organisation. I note he did not go so far as to threaten legal action.

As I have always claimed in the past, one has to have a sense of humour about these sorts of things. If I did not have that, I would have already been condemned to the type of asylum portrayed in the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Actor Jack Nicholson won an Oscar award for his portrayal of a patient in this highly regarded movie.

He portrayed a character who is transferred from prison to a mental institution and the film details the battle of wits between Nicholson’s rebellious character and the inflexible nurse who rules by fear in the psychiatric ward.

The reason I mention this is that I have a fear and it is a real fear, that when one raises questions about certain matters in our community, one gets shot down for being the messenger or the “brave heart”.

I don’t think I am as obnoxious as Sir Bob Jones has been in his recent and well publicised depiction of Maori people. I certainly do not depict papa’a people in such a racist way nor do I dismiss them outright. Like Sir Bob, I mix and work with papa’a people quite a lot and as I mentioned previously, Sir Bob used to mix with Polynesian boxers quite a lot as well.

I’m not privy as to whether he mixed with Maori people very much, but taking into regard his means and wide variety being a big fish in a big ocean; I could only imagine that he did interact with Maori a lot.

In a way Sir Bob and I are of the same ilk. We probe and provoke and certainly invite reactions - some of them not necessarily nice. I have been called many things in my political career as a former MP and indeed, as a political activist today. So much so, that internal affairs minister Albert Nicholas was vehement in his response to my probing and revelations into his relationship with the parasitical George Pitt and their plans to drive Nicholas into becoming the new prime minister of the Cook Islands. George Pitt continues to malign me on radio and in the press. That’s probably in return for me complaining to police about his attempts to bribe me into paying him money for favours he promised for the Democratic Party and Opposition Members of Parliament.

I take comfort from the fact that a lot of what I say resonates with a huge number of Cook Islanders and non-Cook Islanders. An elderly Cook Islands man was overheard to say that he has a lot of respect for this man (pointing to my picture), because he speaks for the voiceless. Another lady told me she and a group of her colleagues always read my columns because they can relate to the issues I raise.

That’s what it is all about. As a columnist, I try and reach out to the wider public and will continue to do for as long as I can. Sir Bob, on the other hand, is going to sue the lady who started the petition calling for action against him, over the meaning of a word.

Leave a comment