Tongans and samoans: Growing Fear In Pacific

These concepts are socially constructed and have been given much weight. What are your thoughts?
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Tongans and samoans: Growing Fear In Pacific

Unread postby TeeKay » February 3rd, 2007, 6:14 pm

Al-Qaeda and fellow international terrorists are said to threaten failing Pacific states but as Michael Field reports the real menace comes from the streets of America and south Auckland.

They're shadowy and amoral; big and vicious men, now living in every village in Polynesia.

They learned their trade with American street gangs like the Sons of Samoa and the Tongan Crip Gang (TCG).

Samoan Warriors Bounty Hunters, Tongan Crip Regulators, Tongan Style Gang and the Baby Regulators fill out the world of hoods, hand signals, graffiti and crime.

Amidst the ruins of Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa and in the wake of an assassination in Samoa, the Pacific is slowly waking to the threat.

"They talk blithely about terrorists but it is the terrorists from within," University of the South Pacific (USP) educator Dr 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki of Tonga told Fairfax.

"These are the young people... not only from the US but also Australia and New Zealand, who have been sent home to be rehabilitated and they bring in all their skills they have honed in the inner cities of the US and other places."

The gang menace emerged on November 16 in dreary Nuku'alofa where George Tupou V had just taken the throne, igniting calls for greater democracy in the kingdom of 110,000 people.

As the royal dominated Legislative Assembly began meeting hundreds of people gathered to support the democracy call.

Within an hour Nuku'alofa's business district was ablaze. The damage bill ran to T$123.5 million (NZ$86 million). Seven looters were killed, caught inside a fire they set at the royal owned offices of the electricity supplier Shoreline.

Around 1100 people have since been arrested - with New Zealand police help - and over half are TCG who are mostly from Mormon Latter Day Saint (LDS) families.

LDS makes exaggerated claims to have 46,000 followers in Tonga and hundreds of families over the decades have gone to Salt Lake City in Utah, the church's headquarters.

Salt Lake has turned into a gang melting pot and Dr Taufe'ulungaki claims Mormon children, who joined TCG, have since been deported back to Tonga. Joined by disaffected youth from New Zealand they destroyed Nuku'alofa.

"They were not the least bit interested in democracy... They thought it was fun."

She said these youth had a huge influence.

"They live within villages and indoctrinate the young, the youth of the country. They are not isolated; they live together with the village people. They are in every community...

"They have no commitment, they are totally amoral, they have no commitment to anybody, no affiliation, they have no loyalty to anybody and they come with a great deal of hatred because they have been sent away from the people they know from their own environment to live with people they have never seen before in a totally alien environment."

Labelled 'remittance children", they are the off-spring of hard working migrant parents with two or three low paying jobs in the alien societies. The children grow up on working class streets picking up bad habits.

They are turned into gang members by their host societies, not by the Pacific countries. They should not be deported back to the Pacific which cannot cope.

"It's not our problem... We need to work with the countries, Australia, New Zealand and the US, not to deport their home grown problems into the Pacific, as a first step."

Under 9/11 inspired US Homeland Security Act authorities are cracking down on illegal aliens and the Salt Lake City Sheriff's Department which coordinates a Gang Project says many of the people they track are Polynesian gang members.

Lieutenant Teri Sommers of the Gang Project told Fairfax a "large investigation" was underway into TCG members' citizenships. Most of them were non-US citizens and faced deportation. She was shocked to learn of the consequences that could have at the other end.

"We were not aware they were travelling to that extent," she said.

Dr Taufe'ulungaki stressed many of those deported were not Tongan but born and bred in the US - but without citizenship. Under new US security rules many of them will be deported, but political leaders were unaware: "They are too busy about other things."

Lt Sommers said TCG was involved in a major array of serious crime. The public cop their violence as do rival gangs. TCG's main enemy is fellow Tongan gang the Baby Regulators, which is big in the methamphetamine trade.

"They form safety in numbers, the violent tendencies, the criminal activities ... they are big individuals, they seem to be more violent than the other gangs," she said.

They were armed, involved in drugs, armed robbery and drive by shootings. A popular Salt Lake crime in a state with tough liquor laws is called a "beer run" in which TCG hit a store on closing and rob it of its beer, badly beating up anybody who got in the way.

"The TCG is a large problem for us. Like any gangs that are migratory and moving they take their beliefs and violence and tendencies where ever they go.... They are definitely implicated in a lot of violent activity."

The Utah based High Country News claimed Islanders shooting other Islanders has become routine.

"(While) Islanders make up only about one percent of the Salt Lake Valley's population, they constitute 13 percent of the documented gang members," the publication said.

"Detectives say Polynesian gangs stand out due to their violence. Because of their intimidating physical size, their members often serve as enforcers for other gangs that traffic in drugs. They're known for their brutal fistfights, and for shooting at their rivals and at law-enforcement officials."

It was a monster disfiguring the community.

"The LDS Church, for the most part, has left Polynesian families to fend for themselves. Now, the resulting cycle of violence is crashing down through the generations."

If the Tongan violence was linked to American gangs, it was not the first Pacific nation to feel its deadly reach.

On July 16, 1999 the Samoa ruling Human Rights Protection Party was hosting a ball marking its 20th anniversary. Public works minister Luagalau Levaula Kamu, the master of ceremonies, had just introduced Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele and then stepped to the back of the stage to answer his mobile phone.

On the other side of a brick latticed wall 34-year-old Alatise Vitale watched him talk. A Sons of Samoa gang member and a heavy cocaine user lined up his telescope sight equipped Armalite AR-180 automatic rifle that he later smuggled back into Samoa.

"I put the gun mouth, the barrel between the bricks, and just pulled the trigger," he later confessed.

"The gun was pointed at Leva's left-side. There was a loud bang, it was really loud, a big fire came out the front, then I pulled the gun and started running straight to the front."

He hit his target in the back, killing him.

Vitale quickly confessed. He said his father, Minister of Women's Affairs Leafa Vitale, had, along with former Communications Minister Toi Aukoso, paid for the automatic and ordered the killing of Levaula. The motive had been the spoils of corruption.

The two cabinet ministers and the gang son are now serving life sentences.

New Zealand exports gang members to the Pacific nations, but it is parents sending them.

Counties Manukau Police Pacific Coordinator Willie Maea said the dynamics, with hardworking Pacific parents, were the same in South Auckland as they are in Utah.

Church was a safe place for parents who could be at ease with their children.

"Sadly that is now a recruiting area as well and it's not just one denomination that we have identified having this problem," he told Fairfax.

It was crucial the problem be addressed not only a grass roots levels, but politically as well.

A few hardened gang individuals were influencing the many around them, wearing the latest gear and use the latest technologies - all paid for through drug dealing.

"They attract pretty young girls, they in turn attract the boys, their actions and trends are further endorsed by music video, internet sites and mobiles."

"The influences of American Hip Hop and televised lifestyles of gangsters play a major role in the street gangs we now have in New Zealand," he said.

"For no other reason than to probably follow TCG and the like in America, a Tongan youth gravitates more to Blue coloured gang and (red) for Samoans"

Many of the youth gangs name themselves after a main street they come from or areas within their towns.

"What I have come across is that even ethnic specific names like the TCG or KTs (KauTamas) have other ethnicities within them."

In Auckland the big influence are adults gangs: the Mongrel Mob whose colour is red and blue coloured Black Power.

Youth and street gangs have been around since the 1960s, but Mr Maea says the harder edge has developed.

"Many of our parents do not even realise these problems within their homes and churches as far as they are concerned a red or blue hankie is just that a hanky."

Parents can act decisively when they discover the truth.

"Many cases have the parents sending their young person back as soon as they realise they are straying and not complying with family rules."

This was to cut the association with like minded youth to teach youth the error of their ways through strict village rules and village upbringing.

"Whilst there is reluctance by courts to do this because there is no agreement between the two countries, if a family comes up with a plan that satisfies the court that the youth will be supervised properly then the youth is released to the family in the islands.

Mr Maea said many more families are doing it now, "hence the troubles we have in the Islands".

He agreed with Dr Taufe'ulungaki saying the gang lifestyle exported to the Pacific threatened chaos: "they come out of the woodwork when events like in Tonga occur.

"What is very apparent in this new breed of youth is the lack of respect they show towards elders, authority and each other."

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Unread postby TeeKay » February 3rd, 2007, 6:15 pm

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Unread postby TwoGlockz » February 4th, 2007, 11:52 am

^^ Damn dem samoa's and tonga's gettin off.

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