19 May 2020

A Tongan 'warrior' in fight against drug abuse and addiction dies

12:11 pm on 19 May 2020

Tonga's efforts to stem increasing amounts of drug use in the kingdom have suffered a blow with the death of a local counsellor.

Ned Cook

Ned Cook Photo: Facebook

Sixty-seven year old Ned Cook, who worked in the community dealing with drug abuse and addiction, died on Sunday from injuries suffered in an alleged Friday night assault.

Our correspondent in Nuku'alofa, Kalafi Moala, said Mr Cook was "one of Tonga's warriors" in the fight against drug abuse and addiction.

Mr Moala said his death was a tremendous loss for the country.

"We, here in Tonga, are very shocked by the death of Ned.

"The big question is...who is going to be filling his shoes? He was not only a leader in dealing with drug addiction and so on, particularly meth, but basically he was the only trained [drug] counsellor in Tonga who was trying to deal with the problem," Mr Moala said.

While arrests and interventions in the local drug trade seemed to have increased, there was still a lack of rehabilitation work on the ground, according to Mr Moala.

"The police are doing well with getting people, finding out, investigating and arresting those that are distributing the drugs but there is very little or no work done about those who are in addiction."

Mr Moala said Mr Cook and the Salvation Army were leading in this particular area.

He said he hoped the high profile death would spur the community into action against drug use as it was indicative of the situation around the capital.

"We have got to do something to deal with the meth problem. A lot of the criminal activities that are going on, particularly in terms of assault, robbery and so on, are committed by those who are addicted or who have problems with meth or what we call here 'ice'."

Police have arrested a 19 year old in relation to Mr Cook's death.

They say an investigation is continuing into an incident on Vuna Road on Ma'ufanga on 15 May.