A Tafatafa man who attacked three youth from Lotofaga with a machete in March 2022 has been handed a six year prison term by the Courts.
Nu’uuli Lopesi is said to be a faiava married into the village of Tafatafa.
When the matter was first reported to Police Auapaau Logoitino Filipo told SGN the accused had been charged with murder, however, the murder charges were later dropped to manslaughter by Prosecution for an early guilty plea.
According to Deputy Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo at the time, the man used a machete to attack three youth who had stayed the night at a beach resort at the popular Tafatafa location.
Villagers say a group of youth had been drinking at the beach fales since Saturday, and when they came to leave on Sunday afternoon, their vehicle was stoned. According to a source from the village, the youth were making a lot of noise, screaming (tiususu), yelling and swearing as their car was driving away.
According to the village source, the 51 year old now charged with murder had initially tried to calm the situation when the youth stopped their car. “He told them that they were in the wrong, for behaving badly in the village, especially on a Sunday…”
However, three of the youth got out of the car and threw stones back. One of the stones hit Nuuuli, and this triggered his anger. According to village sources, the car then took off, leaving the three victims behind.
Nuuuli, who lived near the roadside, then fetched his machete and retaliated by attacking the youth.
The young man who died was attacked in the neck area, while another youth sustained serious injuries to his shoulder, while the third young man, 32 years old, sustained injuries to his lower back.
In Court this week Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma said the Court has considered the ifoga taken by Tafatafa village matai to Lotofaga which included 10,000 tala for the family of the boy who had been killed.
Samoa Global News were on site in Lotofaga during the traditional apology in March last year. Car loads of matai and villagers from Tafatafa had arrived at the compound of the EFKS Congregational Christian Church just after 7am. Soon after this, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa arrived.
As is required by the traditional apology, four elderly matai from Tafatafa village then sat under a large fine mat that covered them completely, while two Tafatafa church ministers sat infront of them.
The two clergymen were Tolei’u Tolei’u of the Methodist church, and Bishop Leapaga Tiputa Apinati of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Orators from Lotofaga, Siitagata and Lemauga were then seen walking over to remove the ietoga; a sign of acceptance of the traditional apology. The clergymen and matai of Tafatafa village were then asked to come into the church hall, where traditional speeches and cultural exchanges took place.
Leapaga Eteuati spoke on behalf of Tafatafa village. He thanked Lotofaga for their hearts to easily accept their apology, and to the Sa’o Faapito Fiame Naomi for her role in the reconciliation process. The main concern for them, as conveyed by the orator, is to maintain peace and avoid any retaliation, or ongoing violence stemming from the incident.
“Faafetai i le paia o le afioaga o Lotofaga, o itu aso faapenei e le faigofie, peitai, faafetai i se tofa ua a’e, ua ola ai le pagota, ua magalo ai le sala. Faafetai foi i le Sao Faapito i le tofa faatupu, tofa faaLeAtua ua ui magalo ai mea uma, ma ua faafaigofie ai lenei aso”.
The Lotofaga response was conveyed by Siitagata Aifoi, who thanked the villagers of Tafatafa for taking the cultural route to reconciliation. He, too, apologised to Tafatafa, for any behaviour of their youth while on Tafatafa sacred land, that may have caused offence, especially on a Sunday, when the incident occurred. He called for the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Matou te asu atu foi vai malu i outou finagalo i se tu ma ni aga foi sa fai e le fanau i outou eleele sa. E lē logo malie foi o lea afifio le paia maualuga faapea auauna totofi a Le Atua. Ae pau le mea sili, ia tatou maua le agaga o le fefaamagaloa’i, e pei o upu a le tusi”.
A cultural exchange followed where Leapaga Eteuati voiced the various gifts prepared by Tafatafa for Lotofaga. $2,000 tala was tagged for high chiefs of the village, while $5,000 was handed over for orator chiefs (faleupolu). An ietoga and gift was set aside for the Prime Minister. Church ministers of Lotofaga and the lead orator the day, Siitagata Aifoi, also received lafo by way of cash.
Tafatafa then handed over a large ietoga and $10,000 tala for the family of the deceased, although the parents and immediate family of the 26 year old were not present at the gathering. An ietoga and $1,000 tala was presented for the families of the two men who had been wounded in the attack.
Siitagata spoke again to thank Tafatafa, and reciprocated the gifts with a faaaloaloga of 30 pusa apa, and $3,000 tala for the villagers’ fare back (pasese). Church ministers from Tafatafa as well as all the high chiefs present also received a lafo by way of cash. The lead orator Leapaga Eteuati received $500. Tafatafa honoured the faaaloaloga and received it, however, they returned $2,000 tala of the pasese money.
Interview with Victim’s Father
In an interview with the family of the deceased, his guardian father, Po’e Apulu Fesolai Filifili said he and his children, and especially his wife, were in deep mourning for his son, Jay, killed on the week of his 26th birthday.
He said his son was a difficult boy, adopted as their own when his mother left for New Zealand many years prior.
Jay’s biologicial mother is Poe’s wife’s sister. Po’e said he and his wife loved Jay as their own, and he was brought up as a younger brother to their children. “His older brothers loved him, and they are struggling to find solace”.
Healthcare workers who received the body of the dead boy say the laceration to his neck was severe and almost decapitated him.
“We love and miss our boy. It was his birthday yesterday, and it is hard for us as parents to lose a child. When I was told of the incident and the way my son had been killed, I called all my children and my family together. I gathered them around and told them, “do not retaliate, under no circumstance should any of you retaliate,” said Po’e.
His wife had sat next to him, crying the entire time he spoke.
“I told my sons, do not go to the event taking place this morning. I know my sons are still hurting and they may not be able to control themselves. So I told them that it is best we stay away. Whatever our village decides, that is what we accept,” said the grieving father.
Nuuuli was charhed with manslaughter, two counts of grevious bodily harm) and one count of being armed with dangerous weapon.
Supreme Court Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma, said the Court has taken into account the actions of the youth that triggered the incident, as well as the aggravating factor of the accused being armed with a dangerous weapon namely a machete.
“Ua silasila le faamasinoga i le itu o le amata mea lea o talavou i le pisapisaō i le Aso Sa, atoa ai ma le umia e lē ua molia nei o se aupega matautia.”
The Court took into account the traditional apology especially the $10,000 handed over for the funeral expenses intended for the parents of the victim.
“Ua silasila foi o lea ua maea ona faatino le ifoga, lea na momoli ai le $10,000 i le afioaga, o tofa ma lafo, lea na faa’alu ai le $5,000, aemaise o le $10,000 na tuuina atu mo le lauava, o itu lelei ia,”
For manslaughter Nuuuli was sentenced to 8 years. He got three years for each of the two charges of grevious bodily harm and nine months for being armed with a machete.
“Ua taunuu ai le faamasinoga i lana faaiuga, o le moliaga le fasioti tagata paivalea ua faamaonia, e valu tausaga. O le lua moliaga o le faaoo manu’a tuga, e ta’i tolu tausaga le moliaga e tasi. O le umia o se aupega matautia e iva masina le faasalaga.”
Time was taken away for the ifoga, the early guilty plea and remorse shown – leaving six years to be served at Tanumalala prison.