Disinformation #5. Nazhaat Shameem and Daniel Gounder in the Crosswires
A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole.
Of course the blogs are also part of a concerted plan to attack and intimidate the judiciary to decide in a particular way in various politically interesting cases before the court. So in fact the blogs are intended to prejudice the course of justice by distracting from what the evidence is, and by undermining the public's trust and confidence in the judiciary. -- Nazhat Shameem.
The accusation was that some 3½ years after the judgment in the 2006 case of the State v Kunatuba, when Shameem found Kunatuba guilty and Goundar was the prosecutor, they were, in March 2010, " discussing the details of the pending Court of Appeal case at a workshop."
Further, that at the workshop Shameem was "coaching then Deputy Pubic Prosecutor (DPP) Aca Rayama and cautioned him with the words: I won't be there to convict him" in May when the Appeal was to be heard..
And now, a further two years later they are bringing their case against Shameem and Goundar to their readers' attention. One can only wonder why it took them so long? Could someone associated with Coup4.5 now have a personal grievance against them or is this merely another case of run-in-the-mill disinformation?
For readers unfamiliar with the name Kunatuba, he was the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture appointed by the Qarase SDL Government who, in the lead up to the August 2001 election distributed some $16 million of farming equipment to Taukei. It was claimed he had proceeded without government approval and had abused public funds. Four months later Bainimarama staged his "clean up" corruption coup. Justice Shameem sentenced him to four years imprisonment on two counts of abuse of office.
Coup4.5 provided no background on Kunatuba or the "Agriculture Scam" that was headline news in 2006. Many people then thought it an election bribe that someone above Kunatuba had "authorised." Coup4.5 seemed not at all disturbed by Kunatuba's actions. It did, however, append part of the Appeal Court judgment. A link and part of the defence's case are provided at the end of this posting. The Appeal judges found the original High Court judgment sound and the sentence justified. Judge Goundar was not sitting on the Court of Appeal.
Wheat and chaff: what is most likely to have happened?
It is true that Nazhaat Shameem did conduct an Appeals workshop in March 2010. But... It was the 2010 appellate advocacy, an in-house affair held in the DPP's office. She was no longer a judge and Judge Goundar who was also present was not in the presiding panel in the Kunatuba Appeals case because he was obviously disqualified as the former prosecutor. So what they had was a normal legal workshop about the law on abuse of office, the law on the Court of Appeal Act and Rules, leave applications, bail pending appeal, robbery with violence, murder, manslaughter, provocation and self-defence amongst other subjects.
This is the type of discussion that occurs every day in universities and Law Schools around the world. All Law Schools discuss cases before the courts, even the pending ones, because that is how the law of precedent is taught. Several of such workshops which focus on the skills needed by lawyers to appear in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in appeal cases have been held since then. One was held for lawyers who were mainly from private practice at the Independent Legal Services Commission (ILSC) only last week. The Kunatuba case is one of the most well known abuse of office cases in Fiji's legal history. It would obviously be referred to in any workshop involving legal practitioners and in university lectures and seminars where corruption and abuse of office is studied. How else can one explain the law of abuse of office without referring to actual cases?
It is also true that the workshop could be construed as "coaching" prosecutors. But Shameem also conducts workshops for defence counsel, the Legal Aid Commission, NGOs and many other groups. This is her job.
I asked Nazhat Shameem abut the alleged conversation that was "heard" by Coup4.5's anonymous source. She said it was a "total fabrication", adding "And I certainly did not discuss with the prosecutors my thoughts on the case as the former presiding judge. No judges who sat on the Kunatuba appeal were present either. The case is and was simply treated as a case study and as legal precedent, defining the offence of abuse of office.There was no breach of legal and judicial ethics."The prosecutors who were present at the workshop all must know that this story is a mischievous fabrication designed to attack the judiciary, Judge Goundar and my workshops. I leave it to you to cover the story as you think fit."
In my opinion, the Coup4.5 posting is another example of disinformation. I shall use it, along with the four earlier postings on disinformation, if I ever run a workshop on the blogs and the media. They serve to illustrate the difference between the honest error of misinformation and the dishonesty of disinformation.
Nazhat Shameem is a popular target for the anti-blogs and she's appeared in three of my five disinformation articles. Attacks on a woman, an Indo-Fijian and a Muslim would certainly appeal to the macho, racist and Christian fundamendalist elements that form part of the opposition to the Bainimarama government. I'd be interested in readers' comments on why so much venom has been directed her way.
 The appellant denied that he acted arbitrarily in any way in the implementation of the Affirmative Action Farming Assistance Scheme. He said that the Scheme was not new but was a continuation of an on-going scheme already in place before July 2000. All the appellant did was to remove the requirement that applicants should provide 1/3 contributions for the Assistance. He said that this was done with the authority and approval of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests. He said that he had not gained from the Scheme but that the SDL Party and members of the Interim Civilian Government had actually gained in the General Elections. He said that all payments were made in accordance with standard regulations. He said that the dropping of the 1/3 contribution requirement was because the average Fijian villager could not save, leading to a life of idleness and non-productivity. In July 2000, he and his two deputies attended a meeting with the Minister, Mr. Tora and the Assistant Minister, Mrs Rigamoto to discuss the waiver of the 1/3 contribution requirement. The Minister approved with a hand-written note on the paper presented. The appellant and his deputies then agreed to follow normal accounting procedures to implement the Scheme. He said that the paper he presented to the Minister was typed into his Laptop Computer and taken to the Ministers. It was not typed on his Secretary’s computer and was not in any Inward and Outward Mail Registers.
Here are links to earlier Disinformation postings
# 1 March 23. Coup4.5. Chief Justice and Nazhaat Shameem accused of having already written the draft constitution.
#2 March 28. Coup4.5. Fiji Indian Muslims (Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and Nazhaat Shameem) accused of plotting to steal Taukei land.
#3 April 7. Coup4.5. Bainimarama and government heads accused of being drunk while people in the West were being flooded out
#4. April 20. FijiToday. Lists police it claims are about to be sacked or reposted.