Killed New Zealand policeman farewelled

Last updated 13:13 31/08/2012

Funeral of Constable Kali Fungavaka

Kali Fungavaka
Fairfax NZ
VICTIM: Kali Fungavaka.

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More than 1000 people packed into a South Auckland church today to farewell Otahuhu police officer Kali Fungavaka, who was killed in Tonga last week.

At least 200 mourners at the Latter Day Saints Stake Centre in Otara were police, whose blue uniforms mixed among scores of people wearing traditional Tongan ta'ovala (a mat wrapped around the waist).

Friends have remembered Fungavaka as "one of the greatest" and a man who was willing to put himself in harm's way to protect others.

He had been in Tonga for his grandfather's funeral. On the evening of August 17 he was arrested outside a Nuku'alofa bar.

He was allegedly assaulted by Tongan constables Salesi Maile and Fatai Faletau before he was taken to police cells, where another man, Semisi Kalisitiane Manu, then also allegedly assaulted him. Fungavaka was taken to Vaiola Hospital and died a week later.

Tongan Police Commissioner Grant O'Fee said today the two police officers who allegedly assaulted him before his death have had their charges upgraded from assault to manslaughter.

The inmate, who had initially been charged with murder, has had his charge downgraded to manslaughter.

When the trio appear before a Nuku'alofa magistrate on Monday they will also all face charges of causing grievous bodily harm.

They all remain in custody and the policemen are suspended without pay.

New Zealand deputy commissioner Viv Rickard and police top brass were among those who paid their respects to Fungavaka today and many also attended a private ceremony last night.
Leaders of the Mormon church from as far away as Australia were at the funeral, as were MPs Su'a William Sio and Sam Lotu-Iiga.

After a stirring rendition of Abide With Me, an aunty and uncle paid tribute to their nephew, before members of the church spoke. One man, who had been on a two-year mission to Papua New Guinea with Fungavaka 18 years ago, called him "one of the greatest".

"He had a God-like attribute, something I loved and was hoping I could be like," he said.

"He was someone willing to help anyone and he would also be willing to put himself in harm's way to protect someone else."

They said Fungavaka could form a relationship with a stranger "in five minutes" and there were also humorous tales of his qualities as a peace-maker when confronted by angry locals in Papua New Guinea.

After the service, a massive crowd gathered outside the church - many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Fungavaka's face - as a lone police piper played and the coffin was loaded into the hearse.

Meanwhile, Tongan police will tonight stage a major operation outside Time Out to find witnesses.

"It is just like a homicide in New Zealand, we are just writing the first few chapters in a long book," said O'Fee, a former New Zealand police officer.

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He agreed that the mood within the Tongan police force was gloomy.

"It is not what anyone wants," he said.

"There is not going to be any winners out of this at all. My focus is that we do a professional thorough investigation and that we get it right."

He said it was plain more training was needed.

"I have been approached by people in the last 10 days and it's quite apparent some people are scared of Tongan police officers. It is not where we want to be. Policing by fear is not policing at all."

O'Fee said "good decent people" were fearful of the Tongan police.

"As I am saying to all my staff, it has got to stop. Policing by fear was tried in the 30s and it didn't work at all."

O'Fee has only recently taken up the new post in Tonga.

"I hadn't anticipated moving quite this fast; it is what you sign up for, you take the good with the bad."

- Stuff

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