Taxes, church and the Head of State

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 May 2017, 12:00AM

It was inevitable. The government’s plan to tax pastors and members of the clergy was always going to come up against some pretty stiffed opposition and today none more so than the biggest denomination in the country.

On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, members of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S) are united in their decision to flatly reject the government’s tax plan.

The decision was apparently reached during the Church’s annual conference where the meeting resolved for a letter to be formally presented to the government outlining the church’s objection. 

And now that C.C.C.S is making the first move, it would not be surprising at all if other denominations follow. There are some interesting times ahead.

But it doesn’t surprise us. One could easily sense the Church’s unhappiness about the plan in the voice of the Chairman of the National Council of Churches, Le’aupepe Kasiano, when his opinion was sought.

Back in March when the news broke, Le’aupepe urged the government to reconsider.

 “It’s a sensitive matter because it is not the same for all the churches in Samoa,” Leaupepe said. “We’ve told the Ministry that the decision will not come from the Samoa National Council of Churches. This is because the Council are not the ones to decide on this matter.” 

 “We will leave it to leaders of each Church in Samoa to come up with their own ideas in relation to this and then present it to the Ministry for their report to Parliament.” 

Well now that the C.C.C.S have found their voice, where do we go from here? 

Back to Le’aupepe, asked for a comment about the Prime Minister’s claim that even Jesus Christ paid taxes, he laughed.

 “We all know the story,” Le’aupepe responded. “Jesus held up the coin and asked the people to look at the image on the coin. He asked them whose image was on the coin and people said it was Caesar’s.” 

 “So he said, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 “This means, what’s been set aside for God and has been blessed for God should be for God. Those are sacred.”

Now speaking of sacred, there is one other element of this tax debate that has been widely ignored. Perhaps not deliberately or maybe people have just not thought about it hard enough.

You see folks; it’s not just the pastors and the churches whom the government is targeting. The highest office holder on the land, the Head of State, is the first target. Yes that’s correct, the Head of State, whom has not been taxed since the beginning of time, will soon be required to pay taxes like everyone else, if the government has its way. 

And as with most policies and laws the government has formulated which affect the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi has maintained his dignity and in doing so protected the Office he holds by keeping his silence. 

Let’s not forget that the government has already changed the law, which guides the nomination of candidates for the role of the Head of State. Whereas the old law dictated that Parliament could vote on the position holder, the new one means the government can solely choose whomever they want. 

All that was done with little or no consultation with the Head of State, sources have told this newspaper. As if that wasn’t insulting enough, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government are at it again, this time pushing to change the law to now require the Head of State to pay taxes too.  

As we’ve alluded to earlier in this piece, the Head of State is the highest office holder on the land. Was he ever consulted about this plan? If so, what did he say? 

We ask these questions because if the Head of States of the past were not taxed, why now with His Highness Tui Atua at the helm? 

Has this plan been designed to be another slap in the face by the government to add further insult to injury? And if the official line is that the government is merely doing what is right to tax everyone, why was this not done 30 years ago when they came into power? 

With due respect, why didn’t they think of taxing the late Malietoa Tanumafili II? What has the leadership of this government got against the Head of State?

The point is the forefathers of this nation would be turning in their graves at the idea that this government is doing everything in it’s power to turn things upside down. 

They have already butchered the Constitution blue with so many unnecessary changes. When are they going to stop? 

The fact is, if our forefathers did not see fit to tax pastors and the Head of State office holders when the Constitution was written, why now? 

Don’t we believe anymore in the wisdom of our forebears who fought blood, sweat and tears for the freedom we are preparing to once again celebrate this week?

Is there nothing sacred in Samoa anymore? 

Tell us what you think!

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 May 2017, 12:00AM

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