Prisons Dep’t punishes Deputy Commissioner over affair; probe into alleged thefts by officers underway

UPDATED: A Tongan Deputy Prisons Commissioner has been stripped of his role as Officer-In-Charge.

He was punished by a prison tribunal after he was found to have had a sexual affair with a female prison officer, the Prisons Department said in a recent statement.

He pleaded guilty and resigned from his role as a steward.

It is understood the Department has three Deputy Prisons Commissioners.

The Department is inquiring into another case in which a female and a male prison officer are alleged to have been having an affair, the statement said.

The Prisons said inquiries like this must be based on concrete evidence.

“Hearsay is not accepted,”  it said.

The Department also said there were allegations that some prison officers had been involved in the theft of building materials. It did not say from where the material had been stolen.  

It appears that those involved in the alleged robbery are still working full time. The Prisons Department said this was because it needed to have concrete evidence before it could make a final decision on the matter.  

Spotlight on prisons

The Prisons Department has come under the spotlight several times in recent years.

In 2013 Kaniva News reported that an inmate at Hu’atolitoli Prison, Paula ‘Ulu’ave had to be dragged to a shower to be cleaned after he allegedly defecated in his pants as a result of a beating he received from prison guards. The revelation was made after an MP and a Minister of Prisons visited ‘Ulu’ave after a complaint from the inmate’s mother.

At the time the authorities vehemently denied the allegation.

More recently, Prisons Commissioner Semisi Tapueluelu was accused of lying over his denial that prisoner ‘Etuate Lavulavu had attended a meeting to seek financial assistance for his legal expenses.

Lavulavu was serving a term for fraud, a conviction that was overturned by the Court of Appeal in October last year. He and his wife ‘Akosita will be re-tried on May 8.

In that case, Tapueluelu’s office released a statement saying that it “wishes to correct the media misinformation suggesting that Prisoner ‘Etuate Lavulavu’s Leave of Absence (LOA) was approved to attend a meeting with Ports of Authority Tonga (PAT) on behalf of Inter-Pacific Ltd (IPL)”.

However, a court document later seen by Kaniva News proved otherwise.

The Lord Chief Justice expressed his concern about the incident after a complaint from a senior lawyer over Lavulavu’s Leave of absence.

Mr Tapueluelu responded to Justice Whitten on June 22 confirming that Mr Lavulavu was indeed granted an LOA to attend the meeting at the Ports Authority Tonga office.

Mr Tapueluelu was Superintendent  of Hu’atolitoli Prison until he was dismissed by former Prisons Minister, William Clive Edwards over a conflict dating to September 1997.

As Kaniva News reported at the time, Mr Tapueluelu fought a long battle to seek compensation and in 2015 the government accepted liability for wrongful suspension and wrongful dismissal.

Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen ruled that the government must compensate Mr Tapueluelu for damages caused by his wrongful dismissal and loss of salary from October 11, 2001 to December 8, 2002.

For more information

Supreme Court rules Tapueluelu’s dismissal unlawful, orders compensation by government

Prisoner at Hu’atolitoli beaten til he defecated himself

Tonga’s Court of Appeal quashes convictions of former cabinet ministers

Court refuses to return passport to convicted ‘Etuate Lavulavu who wanted to travel abroad

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news