Call for church ministers neutrality "hypocritical": M.P.s

Members of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong have scoffed at a call by a Government M.P. for church Ministers to stay out of politics, characterising the declaration as "hypocritical".

Independent Salega East Member of Parliament, Olo and Urban West M.P., Faumuina were speaking in response to a call by the Associate Minister for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.), Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi. The M.P. reportedly questioned the role of church ministers in politics. 

Leala made the most recent call in Parliament last week, saying church ministers should focus on religious teaching and remain neutral in their ministry. 

“It is disrespectful to direct the spiritual wisdom of a church minister and equally disrespectful for someone to speak about a church minister,” Olo said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.

“Leala should just stick to politics, there’s no need to involve the messengers of God.”

Olo claims that no other political party influenced church ministers more than the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.). 

“They now have church ministers on [Government] boards. As soon as they included church ministers in those boards, it became political,” he said. 

“They should have just left the church ministers to do their role in the community, but now what? After making the church ministers play political roles they’re turning around to blame it on us?”

Olo said Leala needs to think before speaking about the church ministers again, as he also complained about Government’s inclusion of church ministers on government boards when he was in opposition. 

“Leala needs to think again. He strongly advocated against the inclusion of church ministers on these boards, as it involved them in political matters, but now he is standing on the other side and saying this?” said Olo.

“Leala should think back and try to remember what he said while he was in opposition. Don’t be a hypocrite.”

Meanwhile, Faumuina added there is a church minister who is currently employed in the Ministry of Women, who allegedly threatened village representatives that they can be removed from their position if they are found supporting the F.A.S.T. Party.

“And it has happened,” he said. “So within the Government, there are church ministers working according to their agenda.”

On Monday, whilst speaking in Parliament, Leala made it clear that not all church ministers or clergy are guilty of crossing over into politics.

He also mentioned the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) Parish where he was raised and recalled the spiritual teachings of the many ministers who nurtured his faith. 

“If you want a political career, give up the church and come run in the general election for a seat in Parliament,” said Leala.

This did not sit well with Faumuina who said, Leala should be thankful there is still “skin on his head” as it would not be the case if a church minister decided to curse him.

“He is not one to talk,” Faumuina added. 

“How many political parties has he gone to? It is no difference from what he is doing with church; after he attends one church, he attends another and then another; he has attended almost all the churches.” 

Faumuina also rejected Leala’s ‘sympathy’ for the Independent M.P. who recently exited H.R.P.P. claiming he feels sorry for F.A.S.T. Leader, Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa and Faumuina as they do not know what it is like to be on the opposing side.

“We are not the opposition,” he said.

“None of us are doing it because we want to be on opposition. The reason why we are here is to remove them along with their corrupt practices.” 

Olo added that Leala is the best candidate for the H.R.P.P.'s deputy leader, alongside Tuilaepa. 

"My only advice to Leala is that he steers clear of Tuilaepa's political style, of playing personally rather than talking directly about the issues," he said. 

"He needs to stick to talking about the issues, like how he used to when he first started out in the opposition.

"But for Leala, I know no one else would fit the position of the H.R.P.P. leader apart from him. He is the best choice of the H.R.P.P." 

Leala’s earlier calls against the church minister’s involvement in political matters was countered by Laauli last month, saying they have a right to voice their opinions as they are speaking about their own experiences.

Laauli suggested that his fellow M.P. should “stay in your own lane.”

"Whatever the church ministers are saying, that is their own right and opinion," La'auli told the Samoa Observer. "No one can stop them [church ministers] from voicing their opinions.

"If they are saying that we need change, then maybe they are speaking from experience about what's happening in their environment.

"It is not his [Leala’s] place to tell the church ministers what to say and what not to say.

"He should be very careful and be very mindful of the things he says, especially when it comes to church ministers.”

Church ministers are also citizens of Samoa, according to the F.A.S.T. Party leader, and they are free to express themselves.

There are boundaries that politicians cannot cross in Samoa and telling a church minister what to do is “crossing the line”, said the former Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Cabinet Minister and Speaker. 


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