Tunoa – house arrest – on Tokelau family ends after more than a year

RNZ Pacific The Taupulega, or council, on the Tokelau atoll of Nukunonu, has lifted a house arrest order on a family which had refused to get vaccinated against covid-19. The family was placed under tunoa in August 2021. A council meeting on Wednesday told family member Mahelino Patelesio that the tunoa was being lifted. However,

RNZ Pacific

The Taupulega, or council, on the Tokelau atoll of Nukunonu, has lifted a house arrest order on a family which had refused to get vaccinated against covid-19.

The family was placed under tunoa in August 2021.

A council meeting on Wednesday told family member Mahelino Patelesio that the tunoa was being lifted. However, the family would be updated on restrictions that might apply when a cargo ship drops off supplies.

At the meeting, Patelesio sought forgiveness from the community for any hurt arising from the family’s refusal to be vaccinated and the resulting social media dispute.

He also said he felt sorry about what he claimed was a lack of information that the Taupulega and atolls had about the Pfizer vaccine and felt worse about the children in the community who had had to get the vaccine, again citing claims of lack of information.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent on Nukunonu said members of the public and Taupulega expressed sadness and disappointment at the meeting over how the family handled this situation on such a public platform — social media — where the depth of the culture was not taken into consideration and was instead damaged.

The general manager for the office of the council of Nukunonu, Asi Pasilio, explained to RNZ Pacific in July why the council of 36 heads of extended families who serve the atoll’s community had decided to impose tunoa.

Decision of local council
“This is a village rule, this is the decision of the local council which runs the island and the community. We have the laws of Tokelau but we also have the local council which has the authority over their village,” Pasilio said.

Asi Pasilio
Nukunonu Council general manager Asi Pasilio … “This is a village rule.” Image: RNZ Pacific

She said there were no jails in Tokelau, but when there was a serious offence the council could just ask people to stay at home.

Tunoa took the place of jail.

While under tunoa, family members provided shopping for them.

The New Zealand dependency with a population of about 1500 has had no cases of covid-19 since the global pandemic began in early 2020, according to the World Health Organisation.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said in July the former Administrator, Ross Ardern, had no say in the implementation of tunoa, and that mandatory vaccination was a decision taken by Tokelau’s village leaders.

At the time about 99 percent of Tokelau’s eligible population aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated.

  • Tokelau is a New Zealand dependency.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.


This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.


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