Truth matters in the death of Siliva Auali’itia

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 August 2017, 12:00AM

The claims by the family of a prisoner found dead at Tafa’igata last week should be investigated. It’s imperative the relevant authorities get to the bottom of this matter, find out what happened and what led to the death of Siliva Auali’itia.

While it is too early to draw any conclusions, we believe the sooner we find the truth, the better it would be for everyone involved. 

Folks, Siliva might have been a prisoner, but he was also someone who was loved by his family. His life is precious just like all other lives out there.

So far we’ve heard two versions of the story. 

One side of the story is that the young man who was jailed for assault had escaped and was later found dead behind the prison. The Samoa Prison and Correction Services suspect he might have committed suicide.

The other side of the story, of course, is a lot more disturbing. During an interview with the Samoa Observer last week, Siliva’s family rubbished reports. The grieving mother, Te’evao Tivalu, said they suspect Siliva was beaten since his body sustained multiple bruises on his face, legs and hips.

“When we visited him at the morgue, I almost fainted and I didn’t want to look at my son’s face,” she said. “Part of his face was decomposed, his lips were swollen, his forehead was badly bruised and his buttocks suffered cuts, as if he was being dragged.

“Are those the signs of someone who had committed suicide? I don’t think so.”

This was apparently not the only issue.

 “Every time we visited him, he would always complain of the pain so we informed the Assistant Commissioner of Prison, Ulugia, about my son’s situation so that they would be aware of it,” said Mrs. Tivalu.

“We also requested with Ulugia if it was possible for my son to serve home detention so that we can take him to the hospital for treatment, but Ulugia said they are actually in contact with a doctor named “Isaia” and that his name was on the waiting list. So this was sometime in February this year. Now look, it’s August and this has now happened.”

Mrs. Tivalu added that receiving the news about Siliva was the most difficult thing to bear.

“We were told that if we wanted to see his body we have to get an okay from the Police station at Tuanaimato first. So we did all that and then we went to the morgue. When the staff brought his body out, it was an unbelievably gruesome sight,” she said. “For someone who had committed suicide, he should never have looked like that. If I didn’t know Siliva, I wouldn’t believe that it was him who was on that bed.

“From what we saw that day, we did not agree with what the Police said, that he had committed suicide, because of the marks he had on his body.

“Even after we cleaned him up, everything became clear that he was beaten. From his head down to the tip of his feet, they all sustained bruises.”

The grieving mother told the Samoa Observer that they would be suing the Prison and Correction Services as well as the National Health Services.

 “I will fight until I get justice for my son because if we don’t, then we will never know what is really going on behind those bars.” 

The mother has a legitimate point. Say for conversation sakes that he was killed as the family alleges, it means the killer is obviously out there and he or she will do it again. Besides, nobody has the right to take anyone’s life, regardless of the reason.

And up there at Tafa’igata Prison, we know there is a history of mysterious deaths -- including some that have remained unresolved. Names like Perry Tuilaepa and Hans Dalton immediately come to mind. Both men were mental health patients whose deaths were blamed on suicide.

Dalton had lost his medication during Cyclone Evan while on holiday in Samoa. After suffering an episode, he was taken to Tafa’igata Prison. The next day he was found dead in a gallon drum of water.

Perry Tuilaepa suffered a similar fate in 2011. The Police also put his death down to suicide.

Ironically, just yesterday, five years after Dalton’s death, the family spoke with TVNZ News where they said that after all those years, there is still no closure for the death of their loved one.

“We feel there is a lot of unresolved issues and the people who did this to Hans have not been held to account,” Dalton’s sister, Natasha Dalton said. “So truth and justice has not been upheld in Hans’ case.”

Well, the same thing can be said about Perry Tuilaepa and now Siliva Auali’itia. 

We cannot ignore these deaths and pretend they are normal. The truth is the only thing that will set us free. What do you think? 

Have a safe Wednesday, Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 August 2017, 12:00AM

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