Officer recalls torture, bullying, assault

A Police officer contemplated committing suicide as a result of torture and physical abuse he allegedly received at the hands of a superior.

Constable Poasa Malofou relived the horror in the District Court yesterday when he gave evidence in the hearing of charges against suspended Senior Sergeant Liliolelagi Lafi Matautia. 

The Sergeant faces six charges of assault to which he has pleaded not guilty. The charges stemmed from his time at the Maritime Division of the Police.

Matautia is represented by lawyer, Donald Kerslake while Lui Sio is the lawyer for the Prosecution. 

Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai is presiding.

In his evidence, Constable Malofou recalled the suffering he experienced working under the supervision of the defendant. 

In 2012, he was a crew member when they sailed to Australia for the Nafanua’s regular maintenance.

 “I was told by Liliolelagi to check the engine room but it’s something I have no knowledge of,” the witness said. “There were mechanics on the boat and that is their job because I really had no knowledge about such things.”

But his hesitation resulted in the first alleged assault.

“I saw that Liliolelagi was mad,” he said. “He slapped me on my left cheek. It was very painful.”

But that was not the only time. And over as period of time, Constable Malofou said his treatment by the Sergeant became a burden.

 “When he asked me to do something and I don’t do, he gets mad and he would assault me.” 

At one time, Constable Malofou said he reached a stage where he wanted to jump off the boat.

“I was tired of the bullying treatment and the torture,” he said. “I wanted to jump off and ended it all but one of the officers talked me out of it. He referred me to Superintendent Tagaolo Wright and from there I was placed in a different shift.” 

Constable Malofou also recalled an incident in January 2013 during their Physical training (PT) at Malifa. 

“We were playing touch rugby and he I forget the time when Liliolelagi called on to me to chase one of the players who got away with the ball and I couldn’t.

“He slapped me hard and told me off saying I’m useless.” 

Another incident occurred in 2014 when Constable Malofou returned from a work trip in Australia. When he turned up at work on 24 March 2016, he met with Liliolelagi. 

Malofou said Liliolelagi asked him for money but when he told him he did not have any, he became angry. Malofou said the defendant then slapped him again on his cheek and on the back of his head.

During a farewell party for an Australian volunteer in 2015, the witness said he was again assaulted there by the Superintendent. 

During cross-examination by Mr. Kerslake, Malofou was asked about the lessons they were taught during recruitment as Police officers. The lawyer reminded him that they were taught to lodge complaints and when they should do so. Mr Kerslake then asked him why he did not complain when he knew how to and who to approach.

Referring to their time on the Nafanua, Mr. Kerslake pointed to the fact there are no girls on the crew, which means the bond between the boys is strong. He put it to the witness that a lot of the incidents are just boys playing with other boys. Such include times when they chase each other on the boat and the usual boys bantering.

But Constable Malofou disagreed.

“We are not kids anymore to chase one another on the boat,” he said. “We did that when we were young but not anymore and we don’t play while we are working.”

Pressed on why it took him so long to file a complaint, Constable Malofou said he had already filed a report with their Superintendent.

However, he was told to be patient. 

The hearing continues today. 

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