Families live in fear

Families living opposite the Tafaigata Prison gate are living in fear as the manhunt continues for prisoners Aniseko Vaelei and Pati Chong Nee.

The duo – who were convicted on charges of burglary, robbery and armed with a dangerous weapon – dashed for freedom in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

The Police say both escapees are considered dangerous.

Tafaigata families told Samoa Observer that they fear for their lives and continue to worry for their safety, while the convicts are still on the run. 

Elderly mother Amio Samuelu said it is not the first time prisoners have escaped, and it is a worry that they no longer fear the long arm of the law.

“It is people’s lives we are talking about that could be in danger, because these prisoners are no longer scared of the law to continue on breaking it."

“It worries me more because you never know what time a prisoner may come into our home and harm one of us, it makes it worse (when) we do not have a fence that can protect us,” she said in an interview. 

The reliability of the Tafaigata Prison to hold prisoners was also questioned with Mrs. Samuelu, who questioned the rational of having a prison if convicts continued to escape. 

Another Tafaigata resident, 53-year-old Samoa Tinoifili, said he fears for the safety of his family every night when they go to bed.

“At times my family and I have sleepless nights because you never know what can happen or who might enter our home and could inflict any type of violence. I fear for my wife and kids’ lives because I heard they are very dangerous prisoners who have escaped before.”

For longtime Tafaigata resident, Faleseu Kome, nothing has changed at the country’s jail in-terms of breakouts and she and her children live in fear. 

“It makes it worse that it is a common occurrence with prisoners escaping every year but nothing has changed. In my own opinion the people in charge of these prisoners are not doing their jobs correctly if people still find a way out,” she said.

Attempts by Samoa Observer since Sunday to contact Commissioner for Prisons and Correctional Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, have been unsuccessful with staff saying he is busy or not available for comment. 

The Government is yet to advise when a new prison facility at Tanugamalala – which it commissioned at a cost of $10 million – will be ready for the inmates to be transferred to. 

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