In her own words…

Concepts of equality


9/15/2008 Fiji Sun

High Court Judge and member of the Australian Virtual Centre for Leadership Women Nazhat Shameem talks about her career choice, opportunities for other women and leadership.Q: What experiences and insights have led you towards choosing a legal career? Nazhat Shameem: I went to a multi-racial school in Fiji, and I was a compulsive reader. My mother was a school-teacher and my father a poet, philosopher and playwright. I always saw the law as a vehicle for non-violent social change. The concept of equality before the law I saw as protecting the underdog and disadvantaged from the tyranny of the majority. The combination of my home and school environment, with everything I read about the law, led me to choose the law as my career

Q. How did you break through the “glass ceiling” and are there similar opportunities for other women in law or other fields in Fiji?
Nazhat Shameem: Fiji’s glass ceiling is tough, because our community is driven by both ethnicity and patriarchy. I am a Muslim, Indo-Fijian woman, and the combination of my race, religion and gender is very hard for many people to stomach.
I was made Director of Public Prosecutions in 1994, after acting in that position for one year. I believe I was appointed firstly because there had been a severe “brain drain” after Fiji’s 1987 coup, and secondly because I always maintained a non-political position in the highly charged political atmosphere surrounding our legal system post-1987. The hard part was not the breaking through, but was the maintenance of my position after my appointment. Sexual stereotyping led many to try to pressurize me or manipulate or simply to bully me, into furthering particular economic/legal/political positions. It was a most difficult and testing time. Ten years later, there are many more women who hold senior legal and judicial positions.
Q. What have been some of the positives and negatives of being at the top of your profession and the only Indo-Fijian female Judge in Fiji’s High Court?
Nazhat Shameem: The most rewarding part of being in a position of leadership, is that you are in a position to forge social and legal changes. You can persuade governments to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Commissioners of Police to set up specialized units for offences against women and children, and Ministers of Education to abolish corporal punishment in schools. But the down side is that the more change you personally drive, the more of a threat you become to the establishment. So the stronger and the more determined you become to effect change through the law, the more you become the victim of stereotypical and hostile attacks. The stereotypes accompanying the strong woman image, are then compounded by racial stereotypes accompanying the Indo-Fijian. And in recent years since September 11th, the stereotypes accompanying the Muslim.
So in turn, I have been called hostile, spiteful, manipulative, devious, cunning and power-hungry. It is not surprising that many women in Fiji decide that it is too difficult to continue to forge change. For all the rewards attached to my position as an Indo-Fijian female High Court judge, there are an equivalent number of sanctions.
Q. From a legal perspective, what have been some of your observations about women’s conditions in Fiji and the impact of crime and justice on their lives?

Nazhat Shameem: In my opinion, women in Fiji continue to be affected adversely by poverty, lack of education, lack of access to housing, legal services, and civil services, and by the legal system. Although our courts have abolished the law on corroboration in sexual cases, and although our Constitution guarantees the right to equality and freedom from gender discrimination, the women in Fiji remain disadvantaged in real terms. As I have said, Fiji has deeply entrenched patriarchal communities. There is a danger that judgments and laws which declare the right to equality have no real meaning to the lives of most of our women.

Q. Do you see yourself as being a leader? How would you describe your leadership?

Nazhat Shameem: I accept that as a High Court judge I am in a position of leadership. Whether I always make correct decisions in that position I cannot say. I only know that I try to get it right. I think my style of leadership has been described as consultative and egalitarian. For myself I like to be part of a stable work environment with maximum transparency and daily social interaction. I find that such an environment prevents conflict.

Q. You have spoken out about prison conditions for remand prisoners in Fiji. Do you see this as demonstrating leadership that is beyond the role you have? Did your views on prison conditions and mandatory imprisonment for drug offenders in Fiji lead to change?

Nazhat Shameem: My judgments on prison conditions arose out of bail applications. Fiji’s Bail Act 2002 lists conditions of custody as a relevant factor in a bail application. I visited the prison and ruled on the conditions, as part of my judicial duty. The conditions were unacceptable under the Bail Act and section 25 of the Constitution which provides for freedom from inhumane and degrading conditions. My decision was not popular with the government of the day and with many people who believed that prisoners deserve whatever they get. However a judge cannot be concerned with what is popular, only with what is right and just.

In that sense I did not act beyond my judicial role. However, my decision (and that of the other judges at the time) led to an improvement in the remand conditions. In relation to my decision in State v. Audie Pickering on mandatory imprisonment for young offenders, the Drugs Decree was later repealed and replaced with the Illicit Drugs Act 2004, which left sentencing open to the discretion of the courts.

Q. What have been some other initiatives that you have undertaken outside of your role that are aligned to your passions and direction?

Nazhat Shameem: I chaired the Children’s Coordinating Committee from 1993 to 1999, and in that capacity was able to see many changes effected to Fiji’s laws on children. I was National Co-ordinator for Judicial Training from 2002 to 2005 and was able to ensure that all judges and magistrates were exposed to a continuous programme of judicial training. That was very satisfying. Also satisfying was working with the media on making our court processes more transparent to the public. That project in 2005 and 2006 involved ensuring access to all criminal judgments by the media and the public. Finally, I currently chair the Criminal Justice Council, a body made up of the Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Director of Public Prosecutions and Permanent Secretary for Justice. The Committee discusses important issues in relation to the criminal justice system, with a view to changing what is not serving the people of Fiji well.

Q. How do you support other women professionally? Do you see this as being important?

Nazhat Shameem: I believe that supporting other women is very important, provided it can be done without losing judicial impartiality (both perceived and actual). So in a rape case I cannot support the victim. What I can do is to show sensitivity to the way the justice system has impact on women’s access to substantive justice, and to implement the law to effect such substantive justice. Out of court I enjoy a network of other women judges and lawyers. I am a member of the International Association of Women Judges.

Q. What would you like to change for women in Fijian society?

Nazhat Shameem: I would like to see substantive equality for women. I would like to see a greater voice for women. I would like to see every girl and woman educated to the level of her wishes and ability.

Q. What is your vision as High Court Judge?

Nazhat Shameem: To do justice for all people, without fear or favour or ill-will, and to uphold Fiji’s Constitution in all things.



38 Responses to “In her own words…”

  1. Save the Sheep Says:

    Yet another set of well rehearsed ‘this is what I am supposed to say’ answers from a lady who cannot practice what she preaches.

  2. soro Says:

    blah blah blah …. yawn

  3. Maqa a Leqa Says:

    I love the last part “…to uphold Fiji’s Constitution in all things…”.

    What a load of rubbish! Who is she fooling?

  4. hopefiji Says:

    now that the tide is turning, it is interesting to see how all the rats are “slinking” off the Bainimarama sinking ship. First was Chodo and his lot, than yabaki, sami, Kumar et all.

    Will be interesting to see who comes next. Me thinks the lady Judge already knows the outcome of the Qarase case, which is why she’s trying to paint herself as lilly white thru the media!!

  5. Peace Pipe Says:

    “uphold Fiji’s constitution” my a@#$. Its funny how impulsive liars tend not to see that their actions are contradictory to what they say. She goes ahead and violate the constitution by illegally hijacking due process and appointed acting CJ Gates. All her high and fancy talks mean bugger all after she had been tainted by her illegal action the bloody a/h of an opportunist.

  6. Mark Manning Says:
    This is all bullshit !
    When I was in Suva in 2007 , I saw 2 Chinese men in the main street of Suva , looking into the sky smiling and comparing notes mentally as if they were imagining the investment opportunities there . I have no doubt in my mind , that it’s possibly the Chinese as much as the Indians that are behind this coup These 2 countries have the most to gain from a decimated Fijian economy .
    And what has the Finance Ministry have to do with Chaudhry anyway , he has retired hasn’t he ?

  7. Mark Manning Says:

    So now we have another she-mimi running for cover !

  8. Tuks Says:

    A lot of rubbish. Must never be trusted again. She must go..She must leave the Judiciary if Fiji is to move forward in terms of restoration of the Rule of Law, Justice and democracy. Ppl like her who can compromise their position anytime to suit their own agendas must never be trusted with public responsibilities. She must go whatever thge outcome of this current crisis. She ‘s not worth anything she confesses to be in the above interview. She is not worth the salt..

  9. Billy Says:

    In the final analysis, her acts will be weighed against her concluding words about upholding the constitution etc, but as the writing on the wall in the book of Daniel states, “You are weighed on the scale and are found wanting.” So go to hell ….with your bullshit.

  10. Tim Says:

    Seems to me that if this woman has the courage of her convictions then she will step down. The fact that she has not already done so speaks volumes. Still she wouldn’t be the first to have her high minded princliples fucked out of her – but its what she does about it now that’s important.

  11. kaiveicoco Says:

    Maqa a leqa,Peace Pipe and Billy, what a marvelous analysis you three, her whole interview is best summarised by that last part, what a huge contradiction and billy you have said so.!!!

  12. ispy Says:

    Wailei, she has such an innocent face and such a kindly demeanour… the blerry shit!

    I saw her at MH in the weekend walking to her car…

    …should have run over the blerry bitch!!

  13. Billy Says:

    @ispy, Lady Macbeth was the face of innocence also.

  14. Claude Says:

    I should hv dunked her in the swimming pool @ school yonks back….but then again she didn’t even reach the deep swimming pool….just waddling in the kids pool….bloomin’ black ass….!!

  15. painter Says:

    There is only one thing that i wish to hear from this Judge and that is what was she chatting to Frank Bainimarama about, in her Judges Chambers and elsewhere, leading up to the Dec coup, as well as in its wake, via Mohammed Aziz – that is if all these rumours were true?

  16. painter Says:

    Man, you guys are so violent! I’d say a Commission of Inquiry for the judiciary is warranted for those implicated, starting from old CJ Tuivaga, Scott, Fatiaki, Shameen, Gates, and John Edward Byrne. Why not open up the can of worms if we are to clean up the judiciary.

  17. Tim Says:

    @ Painter: problem is it’d probably now have to be some international body that did the inquiry. We’re talking 24 months now down the track. IF we had an enquiry, they’d probably all of a sudden find their principles again, just as quickly as they los them. Nahhhhhhhh – just shoot em :p. Bullets aren’t that expensive are they?

  18. Tim Says:

    Here’s an idea. We ask each of them how many people they’ve sentenced to jail, and the term. We add em all up, and that can be the number of days we stay their execution. Seems like a civilised option doesn’t it? I mean it’s no worse than rolling the dice which is what Fiji’s justice system has come to mean

  19. painter Says:

    Sorry Tim but absolutely NO bullets at anyone of them. These are all good people but none of us is perfect. I just wanna know the truth and I think the public is also entitled to it.

  20. Tabace Says:

    I say try them all and if found guilty throw them in Jail for life.As for chodo and his gang they to must be tried and jail for life. The labour party should also be banished for supporting the military coup.Jokapeci should also be tried and jailed for life.All these coup supporter families should be barred from running to become a member of parliament,council or any other public organizations. Bainimarama,chodo,ganilau,nailatikau,mara etc should be tried and hanged? I would have no problem to offer my service to pushed the guillotine button(s) or pull the gun trigger.

  21. painter Says:

    @ Tim, if we were to do that calculation, then the first one to be executed would be old CJ Tuivaga followed by the CIVIL LAW judges 🙂

  22. penshu Says:

    Have u bloggers this this one from another dickhead Jone Dakuvula in the same days Fiji SUN:

    No evidence for charter claims

    This is a content analysis of the Fiji Sun Editorial (Sept 2) against the NCBBF that we ask to be published in compliance with the Fiji Media Council Code of Ethics and Practice. Article 2 of the Code headed OPPORTUNITY TO REPLY says:

    Media have an obligation to give fair opportunity to reply to any individual or organisation on which the medium itself comments editorially.

    This is not the first time that we have cited the provision of the Code of the Media Council of which the Sun is a member and you have ignored the Code and refused to publish.

    There is a word for those who preach the rule of law but do not feel bound to follow their own rules.

    Like lying publicly that you had not received Mahendra Chaudhry’s letter after the Media Council had asked you to print them!

    This communication is being copied to the Media Council to whom a complaint will be made if this reply that was sent to you last week is not published.

    Paragraph 1

    Fiji Sun alleges: “As the draft Peoples Charter “Consultation process gets into full swing, it is already clear that any claim of public acceptance will be hopeless, unreliable and without credibility”


    The Fiji Sun does not provide any evidence to support its claim that the current NCBBF consultation process will be unreliable.

    The NCBBF response form to be filled in by members of the public was professionally prepared to provide reliable data about people’s opinion for or against the draft Peoples Charter.

    The Fiji Sun’s view logically follows from its stated public position calling for the rejection of the draft People’s Charter. Fiji Sun reporters in the last 10 months have never covered the public consultation meetings of the NCBBF and thus its claim dismissing the result of the consultation process, when it has just started, is the wishful thinking of the foreign Editor and his local lackey, reflecting the desire of the owners of the Fiji Sun who support the SDL Party.

    They want the public consultation process of the NCBBF to fail and be discredited.

    The Fiji Sun is afraid that the majority of the people of Fiji may support the draft Peoples Charter so this Editorial wants to say before the result is known that it will be unreliable.

    The Fiji Sun Vodaphone TXT Poll last week answer to the question whether people regard the Peoples Charter as the way forward for Fiji showed 75 per cent Yes and 25 per cent No.

    The Fiji Sun does not even accept the result of its own Public Opinion Poll!.

    Paragraph 2

    Fiji Sun alleges: “First there was to be a referendum on the Charter. Then, as widespread opposition became apparent, there wasn’t”.


    In August, the NCBBF in response to a similar claim by the Sun, wrote to the Editor a letter [that was never published] explaining that the NCBBF had considered the option of a national referendum at a meeting in April 08 and decided to defer this option because it is like convening an election and would cost as much as having an Election.

    The letter said the referendum option is still open and can be reconsidered. In response to a statement by Laisenia Qarase in the Fiji Times, the NCBBF advised him that he could raise the national referendum option for serious consideration at the Presidents Dialogue Forum later this year.

    Paragraph 3

    Fiji Sun alleges: “Then we were told there will be consultation among stakeholders, followed by equally wide consultation with the general public. It hadn’t happened and isn’t happening.

    Consultation implies explanation and exchange of views and that is exactly what is not taking place in this process”


    Again, this claim is totally false. It has no factual foundation.

    The Sun has not named which promise to which stakeholders they are referring to.

    If the Editors mean the political parties and other organisation leaders that had refused the invitation to them as stakeholders to be part of the NCBBF, then the claims is clearly false.

    If the Fiji Sun means the public of Fiji, there have been already two phases of consultations by the NCBBF outreach teams that had taken place over the last 12 months involving dialogue in over 1000 villages and settlements all over Fiji.

    The third more intensive phase has just begun. The Fiji Sun was invited many times to cover some of these consultations but the Paper never did and still has not done so. No wonder the Editors believe such consultations are not happening!.

    Paragraph 4

    Fiji Sun alleges: “The consultation” programme is an effort to sell the Charter and as such the “consultation” team are extolling the virtues of the document while glossing over – or simply omitting its highly controversial and potentially dangerous aspects”.


    The Fiji Sun does not explain what are the controversial and potentially dangerous aspect of the Peoples Charter they are referring to. Calling the draft Peoples Charter “dangerous” is naïve scaremongering because this only compels people to obtain a copy of the draft Peoples Charter to read and find out if the Fiji Sun’s view has any substance.

    They will find it has no substance.

    Thanks to the Fiji Sun for inadvertently encouraging people to read the draft People’s Charter!

    Paragraph 5

    Fiji Sun alleges: “Now we discover that people who tick Yes or No in this charade of a public vote will be asked to give their names, addresses and telephone numbers.

    Why? Well we are told this is for verification purposes but if people decline to divulge their addresses and telephone contacts, their “votes” will still be counted.”


    There is nothing unusual about filling official survey response forms that ask for respondent’s contact addresses, including telephones numbers.

    This is a voluntary consultation form and respondents are merely requested their address for future verification [including by the news media], to strengthen the integrity of the NCBBF consultation process.

    The Fiji Sun need not worry about the internal verification system of NCBBF.

    It seems that the Editorial writer has not closely read the response forms it is criticizing and further, he has also not been reading or hearing the NCBBF repeated statements to the media that filling of the Response forms is voluntary.

    Those who do decide to fill the forms will be under no compulsion or threat, for the forms provide for them to state their opinions freely if they support or do not support the draft Peoples Charter. It seems the Fiji Sun would like people to believe the Police and soldiers will be at these public consultations to intimidate people to support the draft Peoples Charter! The Fiji Sun will allege anything to discredit what it has already decided to oppose. The Response Form is transparent and it is simply a way of recording people’s attitude to the draft Peoples Charter.

    The Fiji Sun desperately wants the NCBBF public consultation process to be everything that it alleges. They are going to be disappointed because the consultation process was designed to have integrity.

    Paragraph 6

    Fiji Sun alleges: “But lets be under no illusions. This Charter will be declared accepted. It will be declared law, the Constitution not withstanding and this document that blatantly undermines the Constitution will be declared adopted in support of it”


    The Fiji Sun Editorial writer obviously has been deaf to the NCBBF explanation that the draft Peoples Charter is merely a statement of commitment to certain principles and proposals for development.

    It is not a legal document.

    It will strengthen, not undermine the Constitution.

    The Sun has not explained how the draft Peoples Charter undermines the Constitution.

    Paragraph 7

    Fiji Sun alleges: “This world of “newspeak” , as envisaged by the NCBBF, a world in which the Constitution in which Big Brother always knows what is best for us”


    The attempt by the Fiji Sun to portray the NCBBF as promoting an Orwellian world of totalitarianism is a ridiculous fantasy.

    The Fiji Sun in fact has created its own world of totalitarian propaganda by refusing to publish NCBBF responses to critical comments on articles that appear in the Fiji Sun, in blatant breach of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice that require the Fiji Sun to practice balanced reporting and publish comments that respond to its editorial and opinion articles.

    It is sheer hypocrisy for the Fiji Sun to talk about democracy and the rule of law when it blatantly breeches its own media rules, to be fair, continuously and without shame.

    Fiji Sun knows best what its readers should know and alternative views from the NCBBF it suppresses at all cost unless we are willing to pay to advertise them.

    Paragraph 8

    Fiji Sun alleges: “A world in which we end all coups by putting the military beyond Parliament and the Constitution”.


    Another preposterous claim! It is obvious that the Fiji Sun Editorial writers are unwilling to recognize that the NCBBF has the support of the RFMF to establish a better Constitutional democracy where the role of the RFMF is well defined and accountable to the Constitution and the Government.

    The Fiji Sun has never articulated a better, more practical path back to constitutional democracy than that espoused by the NCBBF because it seems mentally incapable of doing so.

  23. Tim Says:

    @ painter: I hope you realise I’m joking – hence the ” :p ” But it does serve in some cases to illustrate the double standards. We’ve got some “chamion of the underdog” – the Nazi acknowledging her priviledged postion. Except she’s prepared to sacrifice it at a whim. So either she should front u and acknowledge that or fuck off into oblivion instead of carrying on passing judgement over others for far less an evil. But the, I guess she’s a silly bitch. I certainly don’t acknowledge any mandate she thinks she has and nor do many others. She’s entertained illegality and been complicit in it.

  24. Tim Says:

    Same goes for that Scutt trajedy. I wonder how many times the pair of them have said “you must not take the law into your own hands”.
    Nah..just shoot ’em

  25. Billy Says:

    Jone D is well advised to save all his mitigating factors for the court of law when the case of IG, NCCBF, etc vs SDL govt comes up. He can do his convincing of the judiciary, as he can not fool us the idiot!

  26. Claude Says:

    Yaileiiiii…..just reading the FJ Times from the internet…we’re 1 day behind from here. Pix of sonapeci…(jokapeci)…..with chodo’s son. Ggggrrrhhhhhh…..!!!!!!

  27. Mark Manning Says:

    There’s just no other choice
    Mark Manning for President and all things important and shiny .
    Free Vw and 4 burner toaster for all !

  28. moz Says:

    “Content Analysis”??? Does the guy JD know what this means? Counting words, see the patterns in language etc etc.Obviously his half-school, wannabe academic got the better of him here! All we have is the same venomous attack that makes a mockery of the pretentious “independence” of the charter farters!

  29. Billy Says:

    JD and his cohorts have developed a fatalistic syndrome that in order for Fiji to get back to normalcy, there is no other way but to join the enemy in order to stop the war. In Fijian this amounts to lamusona, betrayal, traitorous, sell out.

  30. penshu Says:

    He gives the game away at the end by saying that the RFMF supports their way – we were told the NCBBF was independent of all institutions – how much is this chap paid to spew such diarohhea against the media, and indirectly, against his critics

  31. Billy Says:

    I guess the best thing to do with JD is to bury him with his charter nonsense. Not worth reading his verbal diarrhoea. Period!

  32. painter Says:

    @ Tim, I’d say the ballerinas of the Judiciary hve both their hands and legs wrapped around the ‘law’.. and the ‘law’ is …… hehehe!

  33. Kamikamica Says:

    Hot tip from sugar sources in London. Sorry this is off topic, but everybody in Fiji, especially those in the sugar industry, needs to know this.

    A friend who knows someone interested in sugar (works for Tate and Lyle or someone like that) has said that Frank told the EU they should stick their sugar where the sun don’t shine. Fiji doesn’t need it he said.

    After the Forum, the EU spoke with Frank in Suva and an EU staffer later said that Frank had claimed that Fiji can do without EU sugar aid (yes, I said WITHOUT!). I’ll bet that’s not what he’s been telling all the farmers on the Western side and in the Northern division.

  34. painter Says:

    @ Claude – even glancing over @ Jo Cabbage’s pix for a sec is enuf to give one a nightmare! She looks like Kete-Poka in a wig, yiikkees!!

  35. anon Says:

    Painter, da via veka saraga na raica nai taba ni buinigone tevoro qori.

    Jokapeci, lako mada bau lai sili………sa boi riri mai.

  36. Billy Says:

    Kena ca gona na vakamuri chodo and sons tiko. sa vaka mai nai rairai ni dosi tevoro.

  37. ispy Says:

    Jone Dakuvula didn’t write that article/letter.

    He couldn’t string together a decent sentence even if he wanted to.

    Someone wanted to get that message out and was looking for an idiot willing to take the credit (ie. take the fall) for it…

    …Dakuvula just happened to be the closest idiot around at the time!

    Question we should be asking is who wrote that article/letter… it looks to me like the work of either Aiyaz or John Sami – both have much to gain by discrediting opposition to the Charter.

  38. Navosavakadua Says:

    Judge Nazhat Shameem takes great pride in her persuasion of Ministers of Education to abolish corporal government in schools yet she is in bed with a government that is founded on beating people to death.

    The December 2006 coup took place because the Army Commander feared being charged with the deaths of CRW soldiers beaten to death. So why should we be surprised that a series of people have been beaten to death or received life threatening injuries at the hands of pohce or army personnel. And she thinks banning corporal punishment in schools is an achievement.

    She is a Jezebel and a hypocrite.

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