Tonga police charges 'terrible affair'

Last updated 14:28 03/10/2012
Grant O'Fee
GRANT O'FEE: "We have got a long way to go in regards to restoring public confidence."
Kali Fungavaka
Fairfax NZ
VICTIM: Kali Fungavaka.

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Tonga's police commissioner says the situation where five officers have been charged with the manslaughter of an Auckland constable is a "terrible state of affairs".

An inspector, four constables and a detainee in the police cells have been charged over the death of Kali Fungavaka.

Fungavaka, who was in Tonga for a family funeral, was allegedly assaulted by fellow detainee Semisi Kalisitiane Manu at the Nuku'alofa central police station after being arrested for drunkenness on August 17.

He died at Vaiola Hospital six days later.

Manu, along with the officer in charge on the night the incident happened, Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia, and constables Manu Tu'ivai, Tevita Vakalahi, Salesi Maile and Fatai Faletau are all facing manslaughter charges.

Tonga's police commissioner Grant O'Fee yesterday said he didn't expect anyone else to be charged over Fungavaka's death, but didn't rule out the possibility as the homicide investigation continued.

O'Fee said the arrests hadn't affected the operational effectiveness of his police force but told news organisation Matangi Tonga the situation was saddening.

"It has been a terrible state of affairs for me and my staff to realise that five of our co-workers have been charged with manslaughter," he said.

"At the end it does not matter whether they are police officers or not because they are the people we have chosen after evaluating the evidence to face trial on these matters and that is how it should be."

Work was progressing with the Solicitor General's office as it helped to prepare files for the prosecution, he said.

"We have got a long way to go in regards to restoring public confidence after this incident but a significant step is that we have placed our own staff before the court," he said.

"If I was presiding over a police organisation that had no integrity and was utterly corrupt we would have no police officers facing charges at all."

All six accused had their case adjourned until next month after they appeared in the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court earlier this week.

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