By Kalafi Moala
Nuku’alofa, Tonga – In a matter of just several days last week, it seems by what was happening in the kingdom that we have suddenly spiraled into a banana republic – where anything goes, and criminal activity has become the new normal.
It started out with rumors that some Chinese stores were closing quite early for fear of being robbed. The word out was there were two escaped prisoners, armed and dangerous, who may have been the ones committing the robberies.
But Police Superintendent Semisi Tapueluelu denied that any prisoners have escaped from Hu’atolitoli. In a radio interview he said, “I don’t deny that there could have been escapees from jail in Nuku’alofa, but not from Hu’atolitoli.”
It was later officially denied that the robbers were escaped prisoners. They were 3 men who had armed themselves and set out on a robbery spree of four Chinese stores.
The armed robberies occurred at retail shops in Houmakelikao, Tofoa, Kapeta, and Ma’ufanga. The men involved wore masks and entered the shops armed with a machete and a piece of metal.
These men ages 22-26 have been arrested and are in Police custody.
Cash was taken along with other goods, and the alleged offenders fled in a black Nissan cube. Police have recovered some of the stolen goods, as well as cash.
But fear has become something terrible Chinese storeowners have to live with.
Mother charged with assault and causing bodily harm to daughter
A 26-year-old mother from Folaha was arrested and charged with assault, causing bodily harm to her 3-year-old daughter, an incident that was widely circulated on social media on Friday 15 January 2021.
The Police, as well as the Women and Children’s Crisis Center (WCCC), were informed of a viral post on Facebook that allegedly shows the mother abusing her child.
Investigation by Police resulted in the child being removed for care in a safer place, and the mother arrested.
‘Ofa Guttenbeil Likiliki of WCCC reveals that the child is under their care as arranged with the Police. “Every child has the right to feel safe and no child should know what it’s like to be abused,” says Acting Deputy Commissioner Tevita Vailea.
Tonga Police has a dedicated domestic violence unit, with two female investigators who work closely with WCCC to help victims of abuse.
A/DC Tevita Vailea says that Tonga Police has a zero-tolerance policy to any forms of domestic violence, and we are committed to a future where no woman or child is violently abused.
The accused is remanded in custody to appear at the Magistrate Court on Wednesday 20 January 2021.
Tonga has a poor international reputation for violence against children. According to a 2017 UNICEF report, cultural attitudes and traditions in Tonga often prevent efforts to protect children who suffer violence at home and corporal punishment.
Child dies after being hit by car on road in Popua
A boy died on Thursday evening, January 14 after being hit by a car when he crossed a road in Popua. He was two years and five months.
The driver, a 52-year-old woman from Hofoa surrendered herself to Police. She has been charged with reckless driving causing death.
Questions were raised after the incident as to where was the parent or caretaker of the child at while he was crossing road on his own? It is not uncommon to see young children in Tonga running or playing by the side of the street without adult supervision.
Another question raised is how can a driver of a moving vehicle not see a child crossing the street? Even with laws against phone use when driving, drivers in Tonga are still seen either texting or using the phone, and not paying attention to the road. This is not to say this driver used her phone while driving, but certainly there was a significant degree of careless driving that she did not see the child.
An immigration scam involving a small Tongan church in Auckland
To top it off during the week was the uncovering of a major immigration scam in a small Tongan church in Auckland, in which vulnerable people are misled by the church minister, Rev. Tevita Paipa Vave.
They are promised permanent residency status by the minister on condition they pay $500 per person or $800 for a family.
The church in Mangere is called the “’I Laumalie mo Mo’oni”. Hundreds are reported to have paid money and handed in their passports, with visas promised to be issued by a judge of the High Court of New Zealand in February.
New Zealand based lawyer, Nalesoni Tupou has issued warnings that this is a scam, and what the minister and his church is doing is illegal.
(This story in its entirety is here)
These news stories are not imagined. They are real. They happened, in addition to all the other things that are overly concerning and damaging to Tongan society, such as the rampant dealing and use of drugs, sexual assault and rape, thefts and housebreaking.
We are only in mid-January, having just completed two weeks ago the annual prayer week, in which most protestant churches pray for the nation. This is a Tongan tradition that has been going on for several generations. It is a good thing.
But questions are being asked what social results are expected to happen in these national prayer times? The moral decline is worse now than ever, and yet we bury our heads in the sand, and pretend that everything is “fine.”
We keep recalling the heroic Christian achievements of our ancestors yet fail to follow their sacrifice and principled lives. Obviously, their prayers which was marked by repentance and change of life, is the genuine and authentic examples we must follow in order to change the downward spiral of moral and social decline in Tongan society.