Frysna Rimoni tells her story

Frysna Rimoni, the woman who had her dreams shattered after being permanently disabled in a brutal attack, has shared her current situation following a ‘near death experience’ on January 15, 2019. 

Ms. Rimoni was evacuated to New Zealand early this year after Peter Tulaga shot her in the face and as a result left her permanently blind changing her life completely.    

The 34-year-old shared what she is going through in her Victim’s Impact Report (V.I.R.) that was read out by her sister, Seuamuli Sarona Ponifasio, in the Supreme Court on Thursday. 

This was done minutes before Tulaga was sentenced to 28 years in jail by Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren for the attempted murder of Ms. Rimoni (refer to other story for details). 

In her V.I.R., Ms. Rimoni spoke about her then busy and promising life in Samoa, which had changed after her face was disfigured in the shooting incident. 

She was discharged from the Middlemore Hospital on Monday 27 May after being hospitalised for nearly five months. 

“I now face the reality of living as a blind person,” said Ms. Rimoni. 

“I wake up in darkness everyday unable to know the time. I turn on my wrist watch from the New Zealand Blind Foundation to tell me the time.”

The permanently blind Ms. Rimoni said she regularly thinks back to her life in Samoa where she was the Finance and Administration Manager at the Pacific Forum Line (P.F.L.). 

“I led a busy and promising life and I was at the height of my career,” she said. 

At the time of the attack, Ms. Rimoni was studying long distance through an Australian scholarship towards her Masters in Fraud and Financial Crimes at the Charles Stuart University in Australia.

“All the dreams and plans I had back in Samoa came to a sudden hold, as I am now living in New Zealand due to my prolonged treatments, and the support that I need given my permanent disabilities,” she added. 

“I have endured a lot of sleepless nights, overwhelmed with guilt of the inconvenience of what my family is going through. 

“The financial implications of travelling back and forth to New Zealand and living in New Zealand, the constant care accorded to me by my parents, sisters, families in New Zealand, and friends. 

“I think of my elderly parents in their 70s and I can imagine their disappointment, as this is not what they had intended for me.

My mother is now living with me in New Zealand to care for me, and my father is travelling back and forth.”

At the time of the incident, Ms. Rimoni had been a Council member of the Samoa Institute of Accountants (S.I.A.) for five years and was also an Independent Member of the Audit Committee for the Samoa Airport Authority (S.A.A.)

She is a co-founder of the Samoa Women Association of Growers (SWAG), where she enjoyed working in projects that empowered and supported women growers. 

At 34 years of age she said she feels like a baby again, needing 24-hours care by her mother due to her permanent disabilities.

There are also times that she had asked why she survived.  

“At my weakest moments, I cry out to the Lord and ask Him why He let me live?

“I know it was the mere intervention of the Lord, miracles after miracles and by the grace of God that led me to this day, to tell my story.

“I often ponder what the future holds for me. The future remains unclear. I trust that God has a plan for me since He saved my life.

“I have permanent physical disabilities that I have to live with for the rest of my life.’

Ms. Rimoni’s left eye has been removed and her right eye has no sight. 

 She said she breathes through her mouth and cannot smell, and relies on a diet of puree and soft foods due to her dislocated upper jaw. 

“I have shattered dreams of ever being a mother and my career back in Samoa,” said Ms. Rimoni.

“I have suffered extreme psychological, mental and physical pain due to the defendant’s selfish intentions to kill me. 

“I went to his house after work on 15 January 2019 to help him, given the suicidal messages he sent to me on that day. He shot me instead. He had no regard for my life. To this day, he has shown no remorse.

No imprisonment term will restore my sight, my smell, my normal bond with my parents, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my life that I had lived for the last 34 years. 

“I have suffered, and will continue to suffer for the rest of my life.”

Ms. Rimoni had asked that the Court consider the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for Tulaga. 

“This is the closest justice given my permanent disabilities and the suffering that I and my family and friends have to endure for the rest of my life,” she said in requesting a life imprisonment sentence. 

She further warned women who are living in silence and not speaking up against domestic violence. 

“Let what happened to me be deterrence for all the men who resort to physical, emotional and psychological violence against women.

“I hope and pray that what has happened to me sends a strong message to all women who are experiencing domestic violence, to act upon the first instance of warning signs that they are in danger.”

About her life now, Ms. Rimoni said she has to pile up paper towels on her laps so that she does not make a mess while eating. 

And when she is not having a smoothie or a flavoured drink, she is served with mashed food as she cannot chew due to her dislocated upper jaw.

She has also had difficulty bathing on her own and relies on her mother, nurses and relatives for assistance. 

“Outside of the comfort of my room, is the world of the unknown and I have to rely on my crane and the assistance of my mother and relatives to lead me wherever I go,” said Ms. Rimoni. 

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“I have very little independence left.

“In addition to my blindness, my nose is not functioning and I cannot breathe through my nose. 

“I have lost my sense of smell. The doctors tell me they cannot say for sure if the nerves in my nose can grow back. I am breathing through my mouth. Due to my mouth being open all the time, there is foul odour coming from my mouth which is embarrassing. 

“I have to constantly spray my mouth with medication, because it gets dry.”

Ms. Rimoni said her loss of smell has affected her appetite and had lost more than 10 Kgs.

A scar on the left side of her face, which she runs her fingers through everyday, is a constant reminder of her near death experience that she endured. 

“I often wonder what I look like,” she said. 

“Will I ever be beautiful again.

"Just a few weeks ago before I left the hospital, I have had to insert a coil inside my uterus to stop my menstrual cycles. 

“It dawned on me that aside from the little things, I cannot manage on my own.”

“I am unable to care for myself, and anyone else. It is unlikely that I will ever experience motherhood. It breaks my heart.” 

Ms. Rimoni added that she may never return to Samoa to see her 10 nieces and nephews again due to her blindness. 

“It pains my heart to think of what I will miss, seeing them growing up, and me being an aunty to them - taking them to the movies, to McDonalds, to Gelatto. 

“I often wonder if they will live to forget how I used to look, when they grow up.” 

Ms. Rimoni’s sister, Seuamuli shed some tears as she read out the V.I.R. from her younger sister. 

The Court also heard a V.I.R. submitted by the parents and the siblings of the 34-year-old. 

The mother who is 72 years old now, has to look after her daughter who lived with them at home at Alafua, and supported them financially.

The parents regularly stayed at their farm at Salani, Falealili, while Ms. Rimoni looked after their family home at Alafua.

They are passionate farmers and growers with a cattle farm, tilapia fish ponds, free range chicken and beehives which they feed and maintain.

They also grow all sorts of vegetables, fruit trees, and crops at Salani and Tafaigata and are active members of several farming and livestock associations.

On Sundays they sell vegetables and crops at the market and through hotel deliveries. This was their income, their retirement and their therapy as senior citizens.

However after January 15 this year, the mother of Ms. Rimoni said their family changed enormously.

She is now living in Auckland, looking after her daughter since she is blind, leaving her elderly husband in Samoa who also needs her ongoing care due to his age and medical condition.

Ms. Rimoni’s father travels back and forth between Samoa and Auckland, to see them

“Their close family bond has been severed unexpectedly as they are now living apart,” the Court heard.

“She (the mother) is no longer able to regularly spend quality time with her other children and especially her grandchildren, singing and praying with them, hearing their stories, celebrating their birthdays and seeing them grow.

“She says her life as a farmer and grower, her income, her retirement and therapy, has ended unexpectedly.

“Her husband who is still in Samoa now goes to the farm alone, without her support.

“She says the financial cost of numerous return trips to Auckland for her other  four daughters and them as parents, including living expenses, is enormous.

“Their families and Frysna’s close friends in Auckland had to roster themselves to care for Frysna when she was in the hospital, spending their own money on car parking at the hospital. “This also disrupted their normal family routines.”

The Rimoni family is now required to find a permanent place to live in Auckland while awaiting further treatment for Ms. Rimoni.

There is no one in their immediate family who can stay with Ms. Rimoni, since their older daughters have their own families in Samoa and Australia.

The mother said it is painful to see her daughter eat and try to determine how much food is on her spoon, while at the same time trying not to cause a mess.

She added it is painful to wake up every day and see her daughter move around the room, holding her hands out before her, in case she walks into a wall or an object.

“She (the mother) says it is hurtful and unbearable.

“They are suffering as their beautiful daughter was full of life and had a bright future ahead of her.”

Ms. Rimoni’s father, 73, also provided a victim impact report.

The father said he has lost both his wife and daughter who now stay permanently in New Zealand.

 “His wife who assisted him greatly with their plantations and his illness is no longer around,” stated the report.

“His daughter who he relied upon is now in New Zealand and is blind.

“He is left alone to handle the plantations, the home, and the workers.  

“There is no one to help him with his illness."

“He cannot move to New Zealand and leave all he has worked hard to achieve and build. He says his happiness has been taken away.”

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