Body of SWP employee arrives back in Tonga from Australia

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The Tongan community in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty gathered in a memorial service for five men who were killed after their car was hit by an unladen logging truck as they left work at a Katikati kiwifruit coolstore in 2016 . Photo/Kalino Latū

The body of the Tongan Seasonal Worker Program employee who died in Australia two weeks ago was expected to arrive in Tonga this morning.

The body of Simione Vaka’uliafa Havea was “due to arrive Thursday 18th Jan at 1:25am by Virgin Australia Flight VA95,” Hon ‘Akosita Lavulavu, Minister for Ministry of Internal Affairs told Kaniva News this morning.

“Myself and staff of the Ministry will await the arrival of the late Mr. Simione Vaka’uliafa Havea at Fua’amotu Airport and will join the cortege to Matalikufisi to pay our respects in prayer service and accordance of other protocol and due assistance,” said Hon Lavulavu whose Ministry was taking care of the Australian Seasonal Worker Program and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

As Kaniva News reported last week, the Toula and ‘Otea communities in Vava’u, Tonga were “reeling” after the Australian Police found the body of the 35-year-old in an accommodation on Thursday morning, January 4.

His cousin Alex Kaihea told Kaniva News his deceased cousin is survived by his wife and children.

Kaihea, an Australian based Tongan, was currently in Tonga and he said he wished  he was in Brisbane so he could be able to visit Simione’s body.

Simione was the eldest son of his mother Neti from ‘Otea and his father Sinamoni from Toula, Kaihea said.

Simone’s death is the second of a Tongan on the Seasonal Worker Program in the Bundaberg region after Sione Vakameilalo Fifita died in the Royal Brisbane Hospital after falling into a coma in May last year.

According to Australian media, Simione, who is also known as Simi, has become the 14th person to die while working on the controversial scheme.

He had been working on a farm in the Bundaberg region before he died.

The death comes just weeks after a special investigation by The Courier-Mail revealed 13 workers had died on the Seasonal Worker Program, with extreme neglect allegedly contributing to a number of deaths and serious injuries.

In August 2016,  five Tongans, who were working in New Zealand through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, were killed after their car was hit by an unladen logging truck as they left work at a Katikati kiwifruit coolstore.

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