The Government should pay the pastors instead…

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Rev. Apelu Tielu*

The government should consider paying the faife’aus, especially the E.F.K.S’s faife’aus, instead of taxing them, for their contributions to Samoan society and to Samoa’s development. 

These contributions come through the creation and maintenance of peace and order at the village and at all levels of Samoa; their roles in the teaching of moral values and strong discipline; their roles in the education of the young people; and their roles in the mental and spiritual health of individuals.

These contributions are vital to the wellbeing of Samoa and to the socio-politico-economic development of Samoa, but are often ignored by the government and aid donors, because they use foreign examples where the faife’aus’ roles are not as significant as in Samoa. Admittedly, they are not easy to value, but that is not a good excuse not to pay the faife’aus. Without these contributions, the government would struggle with the implementation and the costs of its programs.

The government is already paying the village mayors (pulenu’u) for a similar, but smaller, role in organising villages. The contributions of the faife’aus are far greater than that of the pulenu’us’. So if Tuila’epa has any sense of justice and of proportion, then his government should consider paying the faife’aus, especially the E.F.K.S’s faife’aus, at least twice what they are paying the pulenu’us.

Now, I am not surprised that the Minister of Revenues cannot see these priceless contributions of the faife’aus to Samoa and its development, because earth worms have very tiny brains and, for that reason, they have tunnel vision. But where were the lawyers? Where were the economists? Isn’t Tuila’epa an economist? Where were the other social scientists?  Has Tuila’epa flattened their brains as well, or are they simply incompetent?  In that sense then, let me explain.

First, Political stability. This is a necessary condition that investors look at when they make decisions on where they want to invest their monies and vital to the development of Samoa. Without political stability, capital will look elsewhere, because the risks would be too high, and the government would be spending most of its development energy in fixing up things.

Now, we have been blessed with political stability since independence, and if investment is low and development is moving at glacial pace, then we can put that down to an incompetent government.

Indeed, Tuila’epa and the H.R.P.P. can count their lucky stars that they are in Samoa. If they were in a Muslim country, or in Fiji or Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.), then they would not be so cocky. But apart from the assassination of Leva’ula Kamu by Tuila’epa’s friend, Le’afa, we have been virtually trouble free. This political stability has been due to our Fa’aSamoa and our Christian values, the very things that Tuila’epa is trying to eradicate. 

When I look at our Fa’aSamoa, I have no doubt that it was ordained by God. In it, I can see the shadow of God Almighty, a proof of the Evangelist John’s belief that Christ is a cosmic figure. Our ancestors were able to discern this truth and the missionaries were so surprised that, when they arrived, they were welcomed with open arms by our leaders. Why? Because our ancestors had met Christ already. To use the words of Tongan theologian, Amanaki Havea, the missionaries did not bring the Gospel in their suitcases; Christ was already in the Pacific and Samoa. 

The marriage of the two created this stability that we see at the village and the traditional districts, and has been extended to this foreign form of national government that we adopted at Independence. 

Where as the Melanesians have the ‘Big Man’ in power that can change any time, we have this stable matai system that was structured from the beginning of times, where the matais and village defer to the Church and the faife’aus, formally known as, the Fa’afegaiga. Now, it so happened that the Church at the time was the London Missionary Society (L.M.S.), the fore runner of the E.F.K.S. It is one of the reasons why I am attributing, virtually, all the good things that we see in all of Samoa to the E.F.K.S. and why I am saying, the government should pay the E.F.K.S’s ministers more. 

Second, the Peace and Order. This is related to the political stability that Samoa has been enjoying and continues to enjoy, but I am talking particularly about the relationships between people at the village level; about how people behave and how they solve their issues and conflicts at home and at the village level.

Exactly 30 years ago, the Cocoa Board of P.N.G. (Board) offered me the position of Chief Economist with a base salary of 68 thousand Kinas (P.N.G’s currency). At the time, one kina was worth almost 4 US dollars. I ended up rejecting the offer, because crime and lawlessness in P.N.G. was so bad that the Board could not guarantee the safety of my family and my own safety.

In Samoa, there is no need to have police officers in villages, because the faife’au E.F.K.S. and the village fono maintain peace and order. I am now seeing a few police stations scattered around the country. That is the palagi way of maintaining peace and order, and we do not need it, as it is expensive and often ineffective. So why is Tuila’epa and his government paying only one part of the team that maintains peace and order in the village while asking the other, the faife’au, to pay a tax? If he is paying the pulenu’u, he should also be paying the faife’au E.F.K.S.  

Valuing this contribution by the faife’aus is straight forward. Determine the government savings for not having to have a police officer at every village. This can be the average, annual salary of all police officers; this would form one portion of what the government owes the faife’aus.

Third, the education. There are two forms of education that the faife’au E.F.K.S. provides at the village. One is the teaching of moral values and discipline, and the other is the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic.

Political stability and peace and order are due to good morals and discipline. I know some think that, being Christian, means they should be good – good morals. Christianity actually teaches something that is higher than moral values: it teaches love of God and neighbour. This love is higher than agape. It is divine love. We see this love in the way a mother loves the child born of her own womb, and we see shades of it in the way we love our relatives – people born of the same womb. The morals are wrapped in this motherly love. So if we fail to love as our mothers love us, there is a good chance we will end up being good.

Christianity also teaches sound discipline – A person who has self-control is better than the warrior who had conquered a mighty fort. Discipline and good morals curb the animal instinct in all of us and help nurture good behaviour and relationships. I believe we have been a fairly good and disciplined people. Only some politicians have behaved very badly. 

The second part of the education that the faife’au E.F.K.S. provides is the teaching of reading, hand writing and arithmetic. I am not sure how this is now, but I became a mathematic ‘genius’, because I learnt how to add, subtract, multiply and divide from our faife’aus. My reading wasn’t bad, but they couldn’t do much with my hand writing.     

Fourth, is the mental health. The key to a productive labour force is good health and a sound and sharp mind. Mental health has become a big issue in our high tech and shrinking world. For a long time, the faife’au E.F.K.S. has been our only counsellor, to help us with our troubled minds.

So as you can see, the Minister of Revenues is totally wrong when he said the faife’us have been free-riders. They are anything but, and the government should pay them for the enormous contributions they have been making to our country and to our development. The government should backdate that payment to 1962. If the government cannot pay the faife’aus, then Tuila’epa should throw his tax law into the trash pin.  

© Samoa Observer 2016

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