About the tax debate between Government and the Church

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Dear Editor, 

I am a Samoan resident, having been married to a Samoan for nearly fifty years. I have been visiting this country for the same length of time, and have been here again for the last five weeks.

I have been extremely disappointed with the quality of the debate in your columns about the Government’s tightening of the tax laws with respect to faifeaus and alofa.

Even in your editorials, The Observer appeared to be having a bet each way when you challenged the Government to say why it had not done this 55 years ago. I have an opinion on why the Government did not act before.

On my first visit here I was taken to visit a college run by the sister of the Head of State, training young women for the role of a faifeau’s wife. One of the skills students were taught was how to forage for food on the reef at low tide. Any suggestion that this be taught to aspiring pastor’s wives today would be greeted with derisive laughter. 

Pastors have since found a much more effective way of keeping their wives supplied with food (and plenty of it) - the pernicious practice of publicly announcing how much each family has donated in alofa.

Over the years my wife and I have divided our time between Apia and a village. Apia now abounds with stories of the lifestyles of pastors, and of the consequences for villagers of trying to escape this competitive giving process.

Occasionally village residents have done work for us, and they plead for loans to keep up with what their neighbours are donating. One of my family living away, when asking a relative living in a village why he doesn’t just refuse to compete, received the answer: “Its alright for you, you don’t have to live here”. Many villagers are forced into a state of perpetual indebtedness, while their money is used by their spiritual leader for personal aggrandisement. Yet supporters of the system continue to argue the donations are an act of free will.

It looks as though the Government has decided enough is enough and this severe inequality has to be addressed as a social issue.

In your issue of 7July, Nanai Molonuu Lealalauloto Nofoaiga rambled over one and a half pages of the paper, without being able to make it clear to me just how the current tax tightening is in breach of the Constitution.

In the same issue, Reverend Vavatau Taufao quoted Jesus’ words about sheep and wolves, and about establishing his church on Peter as the rock, without providing any link between these quotes and the taxation dispute. If E.F.K.S. is expecting to be arguing it’s position in court, it should consider doing so without input from its General Secretary, because irrelevant biblical quotes won’t cut much ice with a judge.

The statement: ‘Samoa, a nation founded on God’, has had a good run during the debate, but if this bunch ends up prevailing in its current dispute with the Government, the statement will have to be adjusted to: ‘Samoa, the nation  which foundered on God.’

 

William Hamilton

© Samoa Observer 2016

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