I write with regret at receiving the news of fallen hero and family member, Kali Fungavaka. The news is too tragic to comprehend.
Kali, a recipient of the NZ Bravery medal came to bury his grandfather and ended up on his own death bed in a place we all too absently call the Friendly Islands.
Too many times, good men are taken from us too young, too soon. Kali was an exemplary figure. His life shouldn’t have been robbed senselessly.
Stories are rife on how he died, but we, his family know that his death was preventable and that a grievous crime had been committed. On his last night in Tonga, he was approached by police men outside of Reload Bar. The police took him away, separated him from his cousin who went out with him and the next thing we know he is in critical condition, fighting for his life in a coma in Vaiola.
The responsibility therefore lies with these same policemen who took him. Whether it’s lack of training, arrogance or plain stupidity, we cannot place any rational explanation as to why Kali ended up viciously beaten, bruised and in a coma after being taken by the police. Someone has to account for Kali’s life and the caretakers of the law must bear the full brunt of the law too. Our biggest fear and pain is that the police will cover up this horrific tragedy and continue as if nothing happened. But something life-changing happened.
Kali, a newly wed, father of four beautiful children, brother of three, friend of many, will no longer get up in the morning, put on his NZ Police uniform he worked so hard to earn, and continue the life he was entitled to have. He fought so many obstacles to get to where he got - not many young men raised in South Auckland got to where he did.
What we will miss the most is the infectious smile he greeted people with. But now, Tonga, so-called Friendly Islands, needs to deal with the reality that they are harbouring bigger problems than it imagined. We are not only facing an economic crisis in the Kingdom but a crisis of greater proportion. The crisis of impunity, of lives being taken randomly by people in authority who should not be, and the possibility that this will not be the last time a life will be unfairly taken.
Editor, we mourn for Kali, for what could’ve been, the dreams he had for his wife and children, the aspirations he had as a policeman, the milestones he was to have with all of those who love, value and appreciate him. We will not forget him and we pray and hope that Tonga will not forget Kali too. And that it will bring some closure to the death of one of its own sons. Gone too young, too soon.
Rest in God’s love Kali Fungavaka - you will never be forgotten.
Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand