The truth is this. P.M. will ensure C.C.C.S. victory is short lived
In July this year, the District Court dismissed charges against the first 20 Ministers of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) prosecuted for not paying taxes on their alofa.
Delivered by Judge Leota Raymond Schuster, the decision was based on the fact the prosecution team, the Ministry of Revenue, failed to identify the defendants as “ministers of religion.”
Latching on to that flaw, the church’s lawyer, Alex Su’a, filed an application for a no case to answer, which was successful.
The church ministers cleared then included Tautiaga Senara, Tunumoso Iosia, Faasalafa Vitaoa, Faaiuga Matautia, Faraimo Ti’iti’I, Fili Matalavea, Fuaao Fuimaono, Iese Uele, Ioane Petaia, Lavilavi Soloi, Amosa Reupena, Elefatu Lesa, Poasa Toiaivao, Petaia Leavai, Pita Toleafoa, Siaosi Salesulu, Seilala Luamanuvae, Semikueva Faatoafa, Taise Ioapo and Tavita Anesone.
Outside Court, the C.C.C.S. General Secretary, Reverend Vavatau Taufao, was naturally delighted; pointing out that the decision was proof that church ministers should not be taxed.
“The outcome shows that we have the support of the Court and stands that church ministers should not be taxed.
“Our offerings which includes the alofa, taulaga and sene should not be taxed and the Court has supported our position.”
Now nearly two months later, the District Court has backed up that decision with a similar ruling, this time involving 19 other C.C.C.S. Ministers. On Wednesday, Judge Leota again dismissed tax-related charges against the Ministers. The decision followed an application by the Ministry of Revenue, to withdraw the charges on the basis that “there was no evidence.”
The Ministers cleared this time are Aila Patea, Ailepata Leuta, Anoai Faletutulu, Falenuu Tagataese, Faletaua Faaea, Feata Perelini, Fuatai Simanu, Iaeva Mitai, Iakina Alefaio, Iosefa Uilelea, Kelekolio Sanele, Keneti Leaupepe, Kereta Fuafiva, Letone Uili, Toalua Perese, Siaosi Moananu, Samuelu Limuaa, Nomeneta Simanu and Motuga Matagi.
Again, the hierarchy of the church is delighted with the outcome. Outside the Court, there were tears of joy and smiles of jubilation. C.C.C.S. Chairman, Rev. Elder Tunumoso Iosia, said: “We had given this before the Lord and he is the one supreme Judge whom we answer to.
“We thank him that he has shown us his will and I also thank the Reverend Elders, our church supporters who can’t be here and our lawyers. It was not easy but they were brave and bold.”
Well he’s got a point there. The church is definitely brave to take on the almighty Government lorded over by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi who has been driving these tax laws. History exists to tell us that Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s administration does not lose too often and yet after two rounds in this struggle, there is clearly one winner, the church.
For the C.C.C.S., their lawyer, Alex Su’a, made a valid point. He explained that when it comes to alofa, people give offerings to church ministers as representatives of God. Which means what the Government has done is essentially tax monies members of the public intended for God.
“This is not just a case of C.C.C.S. and the government, it’s everyone. As Christians we need to remind ourselves that this law is going against the fabric of our Christian principles which now is inseparably part of our culture.”
Back to Rev. Vavatau, he is thankful for the outcome of the case. He reminded that the Prime Minister had told the National Council of Churches in a meeting that whatever the outcome of the case is, that will be the answer to the matter.
“So I truly believe in what the Prime Minister said in that meeting that whatever the outcome will be, that is the answer and this is the answer to this matter," Rev. Vavatau said.
Truth be told, that is not going to happen. This matter is far from over. Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration will not accept what has happened and they will fight this all the way. Which is sad. Don't you wish that they would just sit down and sort this out so we can bring an end to this longstanding mess?
There are certainly some interesting times up ahead. So stay tuned!
In the meantime, have a great weekend Samoa, God bless!