22 Jul 2013

Tonga College student remains in critical condition

5:26 pm on 22 July 2013

A former Tonga College student remains in a critical condition, with a fractured skull, following an alleged attack on a home by 147 students from rival school Tupou College.

The police say a large group of students went en masse to a residential property where pupils and former students of Tonga College were staying.

The rivalry between the two schools goes back decades, but the latest attack is said to be the worst.

Leilani Momoisea reports:

The police commissioner, Grant O'Fee, says 147 students from Tupou College appeared in court this morning, and about half of them are to be granted bail.

"GRANT O'FEE: Around about half of them we've still got some investigation to do with, so we've got more stuff to do with in relation to the others. The enquiry is going better than I hoped, and I don't want to enlarge on that, but we've got quite a good lot of information and we're just progressing that as we speak."

He says the students have all been charged over the property damage, and no new charges have been laid as yet.

GRANT O'FEE: This is no longer a schoolyard scrap, it's really serious criminal offending - well, very top-of-the-range criminal offending. So we're not talking about a black eye and nose, this is very serious offending.

The principal of Tonga College, Kalafitoni Latu, says the school is doing all it can to make sure its students do not seek revenge.

KALAFITONI LATU: We are counselling our students to don't do anything more, we are encouraging our students, we don't want to continue anymore with this kind of thing. We offer our forgiveness for our brothers in Tupou College. We do hope in the near future we can conciliate with them.

Kalafitoni Latu says the ministry of education and secondary school principals association is at the school to help counsel present and former students. He says there are also plans to drop students to their homes by bus this week, to prevent them from crossing paths with rival students. An emergency meeting has being called this week by the Secondary School Principals Association. Its chair, Father Aisake Vaisima, says they had previously created a taskforce of principals and police officers to deal with the rivalry, but this has clearly not worked. He says the latest attack is the worst, and they have called an emergency meeting with principals to revisit the issue, but it's likely a new approach will be taken.

AISAKE VAISIMA: All efforts in the past have not included the students themselves in the search for a solution. I believe if we are going further we'll need to include the students in trying to come up with a solution to these problems. This probably will offer us the best solution.

The school rugby finals were postponed over the weekend as a result of the attack, and they will be postponed again this coming weekend.