F.A.S.T. only about winning votes: P.M

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has criticised Samoa's newest political party, Fa'atutua ile Atua Samoa ua tasi (National Unity in God) saying its principles were designed only to win votes.

In remarks reported today but made earlier, Tuilaepa responded to queries by host Toleafoa Pili Afamasaga who questioned the P.M. about the new opposition party knowns as F.A.S.T.

The party unveiled a statement of principles, objectives and vision last week on Thursday following its official registration with the Office of the Electoral Commission. 

One of the top priorities highlighted by F.A.S.T. was a plan to limit the Prime Minister’s term in office to two terms. 

Tuilaepa said that point was "not necessary" to make. 

"They should wait until the people vote them in as their representatives in Parliament," said Tuilaepa. 

"There is no point in making a lot of noises and promises but people will not vote them in, that is why I am saying we should wait and see what happens."

Tuilaepa has been in the nation’s top office since 1998. 

Another key area highlighted by F.A.S.T. was to abolish a policy by the Ministry of Revenue to extend the income tax to include church Ministers.

"It is unfair for them to say that they want to remove that (part)," Tuilaepa said. 

"How about the other denominations that have already and are already paying their taxes? It's unfair. 

"It is only the church Ministers from the Congregational Christian of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) that aren't following the law. All the other churches are paying taxes.

"Even some church ministers for the C.C.C.S. are already paying taxes."

Tuilaepa used the Secretary of the C.C.C.S., Reverend Vavatu Taufao, as an example. 

"There are quite a few of them (C.C.C.S.' church ministers) who are now paying taxes, they know and understand that (it) is something they should do,” he said. 

"It's clear in the Bible that Jesus also paid taxes, also, it is written in the bible that "we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God. So they should also pay tax. I don't why it's taking them so long to understand that they need to pay tax. 

"The thing is, members of the congregations are paying taxes and so why aren't they (Church Ministers) paying taxes?"

Tuilaepa went on to say that the points highlighted in F.A.S.T.'s manifesto are "wrong" and they are just trying to "score good points."

Tuilaepa laughed at the idea and claimed that the political party is trying to score some points, with their taxation of pastors policy. 

"When in reality, out of 37 churches, C.C.C.S. is the only denomination that has not accepted the tax law. So what does that have to say about this party's intention? They're only trying to score some points,” he said. 

He said the points highlighted in a document provided at the party’s launch are "deducting" from the party’s credibility. 

"It does not make sense," Tuilaepa said. 

"He (La'auli) should know and understand these things well. They are not earning extra points from the policies they came up with, instead, they are losing points from it. 

"It does not make sense at all.

"They should be very careful when it comes to these things. They need to review everything and look at all the aspects before they make a decision."

Moreover, another key change F.A.S.T. wants to make when they become Government is to recognise overseas-based Samoans’ “major contribution” to the country.

F.A.S.T.’s launch document does not mention extending this principle to empowering overseas-based Samoans with the right to vote in national elections. Under the statement of its principles, the party does say that all citizens should have their human rights protected. 

But Tuilaepa asserted that the party was advocating for extending voting rights to overseas-based Samoans, for which he criticised them. 

"How can they say that all Samoans overseas want to vote from overseas? That is not true,” he said. 

"It might be just a small proportion of Samoans living overseas that want to do that. But I know for a fact, that not all of them want to. 

"Most of our people living overseas do not think about those things." 




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