The family of a prisoner found dead at Tafa’igata Prison last week has refuted claims by the Prison and Correction Services about the death of their beloved Siliva Auali’itia.
During an interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday, they also rubbished reports from Tafa’igata Prison that he had escaped and committed suicide.
Instead, the grieving mother, Te’evao Tivalu, said they suspect that Siliva was beaten since his body sustained multiple bruises on his face, legs and his hips.
The family provided photos of Siliva’s bruised body and face to the Samoa Observer, which we are not able to publish.
“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.”
Last week, the Assistant Commissioner of Prison and Correction Services, Ulugia Niuia Aumua, told the Samoa Observer that Siliva had escaped from prison on Monday 31 July 2017. He also said the prisoner was serving a two year term for theft.
But Ms. Tivalu said her son never escaped from prison and that he had not been charged with theft.
“My son was not a thief and he was sent to prison because he assaulted some of his cousins from his father’s side, at Leauva’a,” she said.
“Every time he comes out, it’s because he was one of those prisoners who was allowed out on the weekends.”
The mother added that her son had an illness and that he was waiting for an operation.
“He had that when he came back from Australia and when he was sent to prison, the Court transferred him to Oloamanu Prison because he was underage,” she said.
“Every time we visited him, he would always complain of the pain, so we informed the Assistant Commissioner of the Prison, Ulugia, about my son’s situation so that they would be aware of it.
“We also requested to 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 some time in February, this year. Now look, it’s August and this has happened.”
Ms. Tiuvalu said their family is struggling to come to terms with the fact Siliva has died and that he never received the operation he was promised.
“We are in mourning because of our loved one, and most especially, it’s my son and my children’s brother,” she said.
“And seeing in the paper that these people are giving out the wrong information to the media is just an insult to us.
“When the prison officers came to our house on Monday 31 July looking for him, we were angry because the way they approached us was inappropriate.
“They just came and asked where Siliva was and that they had already came back from Vailele, where we are serving as pastors, and my son told them that he was not there.
“I told them that Siliva was not there because he was in prison. One of the prison officers then told us that they had looked everywhere in the compound but he was not there.
“That was Monday and after two days, they came to the school at Lalovaea and told my husband that our son is gone.”
Ms. Tivalu said it was the most difficult thing to hear.
“We were told that if we wanted to see his body we have to get an okay from the police station at Tuana'imato first,” said the grieving mother.
“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.
“For someone who had committed suicide, they 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.
“We were also told not to take any photos but we managed to take some photos because we have every right to take photos so that we can show the world that this was not suicide.”
The family also said that up until now they still haven’t received any updates from the authorities about the death of their beloved Siliva.
“We were told that the police are investigating the matter,” said Siliva’s older sister, Julie Tivalu.
“We called the hospital and the doctor who had done a report on my brother, Dr. Jancey Muaese, said that we have to contact the Tuana’imato Police station.
“We have been calling but up until now, even though we have already buried my brother, we haven’t heard anything.”
Julie said they are devastated to have lost such a dear family member.
“We really miss him because he wasn’t the kind of kid who would start trouble,” she said. “He was humble and I guess it was because he had so much anger towards his real father’s side, hence why he did what he did.”
As for the grieving mother, she told the Samoa Observer that they would be suing the Prison and Correction Services, as well as the National Health Services.
“At the moment, we are looking for a good lawyer who is willing to take on our case,” she said.
“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.”