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There is justice for Frysna Rimoni after all

The guilty verdict delivered by a panel of Assessors in the Supreme Court last week almost completes what can only be described as a spectacular fall from grace for Peter Tulaga.

The story of the man, whose meteoric rise to become the poster boy for agriculture and farming in Samoa during the past years, proves an ageless truth that whatever goes up must come down. And in Tulaga’s case, he has fallen just as quickly as he had risen from obscurity. All that’s needed now is for the Supreme Court to sentence him on the 28th of June 2019, and that should be the final nail on the coffin for this very, very tragic story.

We are not law experts but he should be jailed after being found guilty of attempted murder. Come to think of it, jail is where he truly belongs. Folks, regardless of the circumstances, what he did to the victim in this matter, Frysna Rimoni, is unacceptable. It cannot be condoned and society must ensure people like Tulaga are made examples of what should be done to men - or any other human being - who behaves in such a barbaric way.  They should be made to feel the wrath and the full brunt of the law and more.

Looking at the pictures from the trial, it appears that Tulaga just doesn’t care. Which is why society needs to teach him a lesson. As if attempting to murder Ms. Rimoni wasn’t bad enough, the fact that he chose to plead not guilty to all the charges, meant the suffering was prolonged not just for Ms. Rimoni but her family and everyone else affected by this matter.

Even worse was the fact that his denials allowed the trial to continue so that all the gory details were hung out in public for everyone to see.

The real victim here is Ms. Rimoni and she has been victimised several times over during the past few months. Not only was she the one who was shot where her face was blown up, Tulaga was then allowed to drag her name even more into the mud by telling all sorts of stories during the trial, many of them the Assessors and the Supreme Court Justice did not believe.

We are not going to repeat those stories here. Many people who followed this trial all the way from the start would remember the details and the lies very well.

From the media’s standpoint, it was disappointing we were not allowed to sit in during Ms. Rimoni’s evidence so we could tell her story. We accept the Supreme Court had its reasons and that’s its prerogative. But we also have a responsibility to the public and if we were given the freedom to tell Tulaga’s story — for the sake of balance — the media should have been allowed to also tell Ms. Rimoni’s side of the events.

We are grateful though that during the closing submissions, lead Prosecutor, Magele Leone Su’a gave us a glimpse into Ms. Rimoni’s story. It’s worth repeating. 

From what she told the Court, Tulaga was abusive, violent, jealous and had threatened to kill her when she attempted to end their de-facto relationship at the beginning of the year. Having met in June 2018, we were told Ms. Rimoni and Tulaga shared a passion for agriculture, although the victim was a Finance Manager for the Pacific Forum Line.

Like many relationships, this wasn’t any different, as it had its ups and downs. But things took a turn for the worse on 15th January 2019 at Vailoa when Ms. Rimoni was shot. She had apparently confronted Tulaga whom she said he had become obsessed and constantly checked her phone and location.

“Peter would check her location on her phone and check if its same location to where she said she was,” Magele told the Court. “Frysna testified that Peter was becoming overly obsessed in determining her whereabouts, and started to make accusations that she was sleeping around and having an affair with her 60-year-old aunty.

“His erratic behaviour had caused him to become violent against her because she refused to give a pin number to her phone.

“Peter had grabbed her by the mouth and threatened to smash the company car. Because of her position with the Pacific Forum Line she gave in to the demand.”

Magele also made reference to an incident where Tulaga accused Ms. Rimoni of being in a relationship with her aunty.

“When Peter turned up unannounced in Alafua and wondered what happened at Alafua when it was Ms. Rimoni at home with her aunty,” she said. “Peter after an abusive tirade had reversed on the company car. This was the day prior to the fatal incident on 15 January 2019.

“Frysna had to explain the dent to her Manager. Her own words during her testimony, she said ‘he was out of control and didn’t care about her and even though he knew her position in the company, he still caused the dent on the car.

“He was out of control and no matter how she tried to reason with him that she was not being unfaithful he was convinced she was hiding something from him.

“She testified how this affected her psychologically and how she was not able to focus on her work.”

The Court heard that Tulaga would constantly accuse Ms. Rimoni of being a "lesbian", given that her Facebook photos were predominantly of her and girlfriends.

“Peter had also accused her of sleeping with her classmates that had texted to check up on her,” added the prosecutor.

On the day of the incident, Magele recalled what Ms. Rimoni said.

"I could see on his face that he was not convinced,” Magele said of Ms. Rimoni’s evidence. “He just didn’t care what I had said. I told Peter that I wasn’t going to have any of this nonsense and I was going to leave. I moved towards the door and started to leave, and as I was going to get up to leave, he grabbed me and told me no one is getting out of this alive.

“I was scared, I feared for my life. I sat right back down and started to cry. I told him, Peter you’ve hurt me so much you keep accusing me of all these things and its hurting me.

"I told him I can’t take this anymore I’ve had enough of this. I told him I don’t want him anymore, I told him I don’t love him anymore.  As I was crying I felt his hand grabbing me and it was the last thing I remember on that day.”

The rest of this story is history. From what we’ve been told, Ms. Rimoni is recovering well although her life has been changed forever. Looking at the details of the case, it’s a miracle she is alive. But then imagine if she wasn’t?

Tulaga could have well gotten away with what had happened because in the end, it came down to his word against hers. There is justice after all.

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