22 Students Charged Over Attack In Tonga

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22 Tonga Students Face Various Charges For Attack Police commissioner: investigations going better than expected

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, July 25, 2013) – Twenty-two of the Tupou College accused who remain in police custody today have been variously charged with trespassing, housebreaking and causing grievous bodily harm.

One student has been charged with attempted arson, while a Tupou College teacher and a bus driver have been charged with aiding criminal damage and are remanded in custody.

The new charges have been laid against some of the 147 accused students and ex-students who already face one similar count of conspiracy to commit willful damage in regards to a mob attack on a home in Tofoa last week.

The lead investigating officer, Deputy Police Commissioner ‘Unga Fa‘aoa confirmed this afternoon that the 51 released on bail had been charged with willful damage and trespassing. This is the second group to be released after 75 received bail on Monday, July 22.

It is understood all of the accused are to appear at the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court on Monday, July 29.

Critically injured

The Police Commissioner Grant O’Fee said today that their investigation had gone better than hoped and significant progress had been made. "We have had total cooperation from both schools and they have been very helpful in our investigations."

He said there was still a possibility of new charges being laid next week, depending on the final condition of the 22-year-old Tonga College ex-student Taniela Halahuni, who remains in a critical condition with multiple skull fractures at Vaiola Hospital. "Obviously, like his family, we are hoping for the best."

The Police had seized several weapons, "particularly we are still narrowing down which blunt instruments were involved in the assault," he said.

The Commissioner described it as an appalling incident, which showed how violence could escalate quickly with a mob mentality to cause injury or even death.

"The challenge is for everybody to confront this issue. The Police are not an agency that can solve this problem, we can arrest the people who commit the offences and put them before the courts but we are not able to solve the problem. It is a much broader…and very difficult issue."

The Commissioner said a positive sign from this crisis was that Tonga College ex-students had visited the arrested Tupou College accused in the prison cell with generous provisions of bread, tea and coffee. "It’s a small thing but positive," he said.

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, radio stations in Tonga have been warned against using the violent rivalry as topics for talk-back shows. Police Commissioner Grant O'Fee says while police have been told to resolve the issue, he wants to address the root of the conflict.]


Meanwhile, Halahuni is fighting for his life in the Intensive Care Unit of Vaiola Hospital.

Dr. Viliami Tangi, a Chief Surgeon Specialist told Matangi Tonga Online that the victim has been in a critical condition since day one. "But he is breathing on his own now," he said.

The other victim 15-year-old Daniel Mahe who received head injuries and a fractured arm is recovering. Daniel said he expected to be released from hospital tomorrow, Friday.

Daniel's mother Luisa Mahe, a teacher at Tonga High School, was renting the house at Tofoa where she was at home with her sons and other boys from Tonga College on Thursday night, at around midnight, when the house was attacked and smashed.

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