Lawyer who wrote Fiji coup report gets Massey role

Last updated 18:28 24/02/2014

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A Suva lawyer who allegedly helped provide legal justification for Fiji military strongman Frank Bainimarama and was later labelled one of the 2006 coup's main beneficiaries has been appointed as a professor at Massey University.

The university has named Shaista Shameem ''director-new migrants''.

Massey publicity makes no mention of her Fiji coup role or her action over the unprecedented deportation of New Zealand's High Commissioner to Fiji, the late Michael Green, in 2007.

In her first press statement in her new role she attacked NZ  First leader Winston Peters and urged him to ''consider his words'' when discussing migration.

But Shameem makes no reference to her own 35-page report as head of the Fiji Human Rights Commission justifying the coup.

The overthrown democratic government had been ''involved in massive violations of human rights in Fiji, constituting crimes against humanity, and made serious attempts to impose ethnic cleansing tactics in Fiji'', she said.

Her sister, Fiji High Court judge Nazhat Shameem, is on New Zealand's smart sanctions banned list for her close involvement with Bainimarama over the sacking of the judicial system and the dumping of the constitution.

Shaista Shameem has permanent residency and so cannot  be blacklisted. Massey University, in a statement through a spokesman, said Shameem had advised them that "she played no role in the 2006 removal of government/coup by Bainimarama."

She defended her 35-page report saying that she had made a submission "critical of a proposed law to stop people who were not ethnic Fijians from accessing public areas and also critical of other forms of racial discrimination in government policy".

She said that her role between the coup and 2009 was to "provide advice to government and the public on human rights issues".

She denied any role in having Green either removed by New Zealand or deported by Fiji. In her statement about Peters, she said he was making migrant children the victims of ''racial violence in the playground and classrooms''.

Mr Peters, who is in Taiwan, said he was shocked Massey had created a position for someone he described as ''such a darned dreadful woman''.

''Her track record is appalling, she has been an outright apologist for the coup,'' he said.

''From her position as Fiji Humans Rights Commission director she supported the 2006 Bainimarama coup, and was appointed ombudsman - an appointment considered unlawful by an international human rights group."

She is well known for failing to investigate human rights abuses during and following the coup''In his autobiography published after his death in 2012, Green said he believed Shameem offered Fiji's military ''wholehearted support for the coup.''

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He also alleged she had telephoned his bosses in Wellington to get him removed.When he wasn't removed, he alleged she advised Bainimarama to expel him.''

It is not far-fetched to think that one or other of these advisers gave Bainimarama the idea that saying this might damage my reputation and justify my expulsion,'' Green wrote.

Green, who wrote the book while ill with terminal cancer, said an event had confirmed the accuracy of a ''variety of sources that Shaista was among a number of lawyers outside the (army's) legal team who tendered advice to (Bainimarama).'' 

She had been acting with her sister and, Green said, in due course the women and another ''were to be beneficiaries of the coup.''

''The document reeked of the personal score-settling that characterised so much of the behaviour of the coup perpetrators,'' Green said of Shameem. 

Shameem had said that what happened in 2006 had not been a coup and said Bainimarama had ''delegated sovereign authority''.

She calimed in the report prime minister of the time Helen Clark made statements about Fiji that were not particularly helpful.  

''She used undiplomatic language to describe what she thought was the state of the (Bainimarama's) mental health and wrongly accused him of 'ripping up the constitution','' she said.

Clark's comments had been ''unnecessary and potentially dangerous for the safety of the people of Fiji.'' 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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