A view from Down Under - On the Debate of whether the Clergy should be taxed or not*

My view is such that the priesthood in Samoa should not be taxed as now ordered by Government and proclaimed by them upon the housetops.

Mr. Afamasaga Toleafoa Faamatala in his view as published in the 16th of April 2017 issue of this newspaper says he does not know but wishes the government law on the matter should be obeyed.

I congratulate Mr. Toleafoa for his insistence on the matter.  Faatoa tasi lava lea o sana mea sa’o talu mai ia mau tausaga ua selau ua mavae.  The first time he has supported government in its development efforts! I am disappointed with him, however, for being so unclear in his writings – he uses so very difficult English terms and phrase with which he hides his true face.

He is a coward. Such terms, he uses as consumption tax, tax avoidance, monetization, driven by globalization, formal economy, opulence that make the church in Samoa stand out like no other, a praise and shame form of worship, con, etc.  It’s a mix-up.  One has no hope of knowing if he was talking about the congregation or the faifeau being taxed.  Read his article and you will see what I mean.

Toleafoa, why can’t you write as I do.  Simple English and Samoa words can aptly serve you.  But you choose not but prefer ambiguity and apocalyptic terminology, which serves you well for hiddenness and being “mysteriousness”.

I have purposely diverted to show you what writing with love constitutes.

Writing with love IS precise, disciplined and innovative.  It hits the target at the very head avoiding any low blow whatever – it’s figuratively boxing at its most scientific best.  When you hide your face it gets boxed and you die.

I ask you Toleafoa, it the government of Great Britain (England) which champions such qualities as transparency, good governance and accountability, a democracy?  Never, Never in a million years! I tell you it is a Monarchy or more specifically a Matriarchy where the rich stay rich and the populace stay the same. I say this for your proclamation of the so-called democracy Westminster is said to be famous for and your being at the forefront of the United Nations promulgation of Universal Human Rights!

Our government is seeking means to acquire a $2.17 million tala fund to assist with our development. Development of what, is not my business. I Lale Ieremia, am a Samoan government person; I have always been and forever will be to my grave.  I humbly propose to Government a proportional collective tax to acquire this 2.17 million Tala Fund, which will be annual. I know the Congregational Christian Church in Samoa can donate one million tala and perhaps our registered Sister Churches the balance.  

This tax will represent taxation for our elderly including those at their grave-beds, Mapuifagalele, those yet to be born as well the currently unemployed, so that they be granted all the rights and privileges due to them by government.  It is a tax provided not only by the faifeaus but by all the laity as well. This you will appreciate this is democratic.

The same kind of fate awaits the Honorable Minister of Revenue and Taxation, Mr. Tialavea Tionisio Hunt. Rather than hiding his face like Afamasaga, he raises his hand like a schoolboy and punches the air with his fist crying, “This is my law”. It certainly is your law, not the Prime Minister’s or government’s. It is the Hunt law. 

Ia taoto lava faai’a o le loloto sa o lou itumalo aua aiga e lua ma le va’a o Fonoti le matua, lau Afioaga Naioti ma le mamalu o aiga. Ae o la’u fesili i lau Afioga, o le a le mea ua e inoino ai I faifeau o le E.F.K.S., po’o ona ua tetele ma’oa’e ea o latou alofa ua sili a’e I lou totogi. 

E leai, o lena e sili mamao ai oe. Ua e afaina ai ea i se mea leaga ua faia e se faifeau E.F.K.S. ia te oe. E te silafia na o tagata amio leaga e le i le au faifeau. You see, I have suggested for your very sake a humble alternative to your foolish law just in case in the ends up in the burning bush of Genesis 3. Repent and receive the gospel (Acts!).

To my brother priests and faifeaus, let us not be overly concerned and shiver or go knocking your knees incessantly. If we are to be summoned to stand before Caiaphas let it be, and be joyfully and willingly prepared to die for the Christ who died for us all.  

Take St Augustine’s words to heart,  “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and St Paul’s”. E le mafai e le oti po o le ola, po o mea i nei ona po, po o mea atali, po o le maualuga, po o le loloto, e le mafai e ia mea ona separate us from he love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Aua ua loto manumalo ai’ai, we are more than conquerers because of him who loved us. Aua le inuinua mea oona sese po o mea fa’asalemausau. 

Aua le na o le fefete i mea le aoga o le tino nei ae vaai e tuli momo’e le Satauro o le Ali’i. O le a sau pese atu i upu o le Pese lenei e 40, i la tatou Tusi pese?

The Norwegian Roggewein termed us the Navigators’ Islands - the Vikings of the Pacific.  I’d love to know who the Vikings were and what they were famed for.  Someone called us the pearl of the Pacific and Paradise. Tourists say it is the most beautiful country of the world.  I call it unique with its renowned matai system, its culture, traditions and its social and cultural amity and natural beauty. Of course Samoa is unique, e tu tasi lava.

The Architect, the Mastermind, Lord of Creation, God Almighty who created the heavens and the Earth, the Lord of History created Samoa. He made us unique – tu tasi. That this small country, this tiny dot in the oceans of the world be able to proclaim his name in the world.

Ae fai mai e a le Pese 157? Fai mai, e ave lo’u ola ia aoga, le Ali’i e, i au feau. Ave ou aso ua totoe, ia vi’ia ai lau Afio. Yes, that totality of surrender and worship of God that belongs to God, which is the call. Anything less is unacceptable. And it happens to be the nothingness, which is of Caesar.

Our forefathers were quick to the task and to the fore. They now lie dead, some unburied, in the trenches and highlands of what is now Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomons, New Caledonia, Kiribati and Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and of course Tokelau. The spread the gospel through the Samoan missionary zeal is historical in history, not just in the annals of the Pacific but of the world. Let not the zeal of our parents die at our hands. It is the reason for which we are made unique.

May our faifeaus still be called ‘sui o le Atua’, representatives of God as King Malietoa Vaainuupo termed them at the Taeao Nai Matainui Feagai ma le Ata and believed in them. May we not tax them. Let not the papalagis who come here ruffle with our tranquility. Ia fa’aleaga Samoa e tatou lava. Ia manuia Samoa. Se lafoga ua le tautamali’i ia tafea lava i faoa le aina, aua e poto le tautai ae le atoa lava.

Ia Soifua, 

Lale Ieremia BA BD (Rev)

*This letter was initially published under the headline “How church can help Govt. raise $2.7million fund” on the Thursday Samoa Observer. But some bits and pieces were missing. They have been added hence the decision to reprint the letter in full today.

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