Minister apologises for actions of prison escapees

The Minister of Prison and Correction Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, has apologised to the public for the damage and hurt caused by two prisoners who ran away from Tafaigata at the beginning of the year.

Pati Chong Nee remains at large while Aniseko Vaelei has been captured.

Among the victims of the two criminals are two shops at Moamoa and Vailoa and the residences of two families living at a University of South Pacific (USP)-owned staff compound in Moamoa.

The Police said they couldn’t make a connection between the shop robbery at Vailoa and the convicted thieves and robbers, Vaelei and Chong Nee, where $60,000 in the day's takings was stolen. However, a day after the Vailoa incident, Vaelei was captured with $10,000 cash. 

The Minister commended Catholic Catechist, Kilino Ioane for contacting the police and hopes that members of the public will follow his example and assist the Police to capture Chong Nee. 

“I offer my sincere apologies to the families whose were affected one way or another at the hands of the escaped inmates. Those problems will be solved once the prisoners are moved to the new prison in Tanumalala,” he said. 

This week marks seven weeks since the escape of the duo from the Tafaigata Prison on January 20. Tialave said the Government is considering offering a financial reward for information, which could lead to the capture of Chong Nee. 

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“This option was discussed with the Police Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil the same day, Vaelei was captured. And also there are concerns about the public taking advantage of the reward by the Police, but it is still being considered,” he added. 

The last time Chong Nee escaped his family assisted in capture and return to the prison. 

“And so does this mean, they will get the reward and so these are some of the issues we are looking at before we get into that,” the Minister said. 

Asked about the Government’s action for possible litigating as a result of actions by the escaped inmates, Tialavea said they are not responsible for actions of the inmates who escaped from jail. 

“We have not been informed of such issues and again, these problems will minimize once the inmates are housed at Tanumalala." 

When it was put to the Minister that the inmates should be inside the jail and not out in the public, he said: “At the new prison, there are two fences, it will be highly impossible for inmates to climb it. One fence is outside of the prison and then we built another fence and this is to assure that no one can climb it, unless on a ladder; but then again how will they have access to wood for a ladder."

Tialavea then appealed to the public for information on the whereabouts of Chong Nee. 

The Police also asked the public not to approach Chong Nee as he is considered armed and dangerous. The 25-year-old comes from the villages of Aleisa and Vaitele Fou and is serving time for theft and burglary. 

Members of the public have been urged to contact any nearby Police stations or the prisons main headquarters and the Ola Toe Fuataina at Tafaigata with the contact numbers: 23516, 22208 and 21008, concerning any information relating to the escaped prisoner – due to the severity of crimes he was charged with.


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