Feature

Lack Of Employment And Education Were Reasons For Criminal Behaviour, Former Natokowaqa Inmates Tell

Mr Tavakece, now a father to 10 children became a member of a crime-spree group when he was only 15-years-old many years ago.
24 Feb 2021 09:48
Lack Of Employment And Education Were Reasons For Criminal Behaviour, Former Natokowaqa Inmates Tell
The members of the Providing Young Generation Movement in Every Society (PYGMIES) group. From left: Jone Sovui, Anare Tokalau (back), PYGMIES founder, Josateki Labalaba and Pauliasi Tavakece out doing community work in Lovu, Lautoka on February 21, 2021. Photo: Nicolette Chambers

Lack of employment and education were the reasons for their criminal offences, said former inmates residing at Natokowaqa in Lautoka.

Three friends, Anare Tokalau, Jone Sovui and Pauliasi Tavakece, who are now part of the six-member Lautoka-based Providing Young Generation Movement in Every Society (PYGMIES) group, shared their story with the Fiji Sun.

Pauliasi Tavakece

Mr Tavakece, now a father to 10 children became a member of a crime-spree group when he was only 15-years-old many years ago.

He had lived with his father, a single parent who had worked hard to make ends meet to cater for the needs of his children.

Life wasn’t easy then and seeing his father struggle to put food on the table for them made him resort to joining a robbery team. His aim was to only help his family.

“I was still 15, a student in Lautoka when I went to prison,” he said.

“We had to go around to survive, to bring in money for the family to feed our siblings.

“Now because of COVID-19, people have been laid off from their jobs, have had their hours reduced at work, and they don’t have food to provide for the family, the crimes are increasing.”

It has been 20 years now since Mr Tavakece was released from prison.

He said being part of the PYGMIES group, has enabled him to advocate to the youths in the Natokowaqa area about getting out of the ‘crime trend’.

“When you mention the name ‘Natokowaqa’ I’m sure everyone in Lautoka knows about our community, and still today the bad name for our area is out there,” he added.

“There’s hardly any crimes now like before, if you go back to the history of that place people don’t come around to Natokowaqa because we were there, involved in crimes before.

“Now we changed that place to what it is today, what we did, we motivated the youths to come out from the crime trend, telling them to find employment.

“Today most of the youths are working, and that is because of us, we are trying to change the name for that community.”

He said their Police records hindered them from finding proper employment.

Jone Sovui and Anare Tokalau

Another former inmate, Jone Sovui said it was difficult to find employment after leaving secondary level.

“After form seven it was hard to look for employment so I had to resort to robbing and there was also peer pressure from home,” said Mr Sovui.

“I knew it was wrong, but I had to do something to survive and help my family.”

He was released from prison in 2006.

Anare Tokalau, who was also involved in robberies, suggested that Police officers should communicate more now with those who have come out of prison and help them get jobs.

PYGMIES founder, Josateki Labalaba said so far, eight individuals from Natokowaqa who were former convicts have secured jobs in Lautoka.

“The main reason is unemployment and the poverty level is going right down now,” said Mr Labalaba.

“The only thing is when the mind is idle it wonders and thinks of what to do. My team has so far assisted eight of our people to have jobs at some companies here in Lautoka.”

A Natokowaqa resident who has been residing in the community for more than 20 years and wished to remain anonymous agreed that the crime rate in the area has decreased compared to previous years.

Two outsiders who live in Nadi and Natabua disagreed that the crime rate had decreased because of the struggles families were going through because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Almanah Hope Centre founder and director, Pastor Raymond Moti highlighted that those who were involved in such crimes were still loved by God and there was always a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: nicolette.chambers@fijisun.com.fj



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