Tui Atua rejects V.A.G.S.T. allegation, points to Tuilaepa instead
The former Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, has rejected Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s claim that the Value Added Goods and Services Tax (V.A.G.S.T.) was introduced during his time as Prime Minister.
Tui Atua moved to set the record straight during a press conference at his Tuaefu residence on Friday where he flatly denied the allegation.
“He (Tuilaepa) seems to suggest that the V.A.G.S.T was mine,” Tui Atua said.
“It was the administration of Tofilau (Eti Alesana) in 1993, where Tuilaepa was the Minister of Finance; they were the ones who made this decision. I have proof of what I’m saying.”
The former Prime Minister said he needed to correct the record and to remind Prime Minister Tuilaepa that it was the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) who came with the V.A.G.S.T.
“I’m very careful about this, because I was involved with Tumua ma Pule ma Aiga,” Tui Atua said. “There are so many documents and petitions to prove the country opposed it but Parliament had the final say…”
Prior to the press conference, Tui Atua had also contacted the Samoa Observer to make his point. He provided a copy of a speech he delivered in 1995 under the title “Tumua ma Pule ma le VAGST” for the Macmillan Centre for Pacific Studies at the Canterbury University where he strongly opposed the tax. The speech in Samoan will be published in the Sunday Samoan.
In the meantime, Tui Atua said he does not want people to think he has changed his views since the time.
“I’m very conscious that the country might view me as traitor, that what I said and stood by then is different from they are saying now,” Tui Atua said.
“The decision (on the V.A.G.S.T.) was made in 1993. It was during the administration of Tofilau, where Tuilaepa was a Minister when they made the decision on V.A.G.S.T.
“It was not something that was done by a government I was a part of, as the allegation seems to suggest. That is serious because it makes me look suspicious in the eyes of the country, especially Tumua ma Pule.”
An attempt is being made to get a response from the Prime Minister.
But on Saturday last week, Tuilaepa blamed Tui Atua for the V.A.G.S.T, which he said helped to open the door to foreign business.
Tuilaepa recalled that the initiative was first raised during the administration of the then Prime Minister, Mata'afa Fiame Faumuina Mulinu'u II in 1973.
While the mission did not immediately produce a policy change, Tuilaepa said more than 10 years later under the administration of Prime Minister Kolone Vaai and Deputy P.M. Tui Atua, Fa’aso’otauloa revisited the idea.
"During this time, 1986 and 1987 these [V.A.G.S.T.] bills were brought in from Vaai as P.M., his Deputy P.M. [Tui Atua] and Samu Saili [as Finance Minister] and proposed [a] tax haven [policy] for the sake of earning money for Samoa's development,” he said.
The V.A.G.S.T. bill was passed initially only for hotel rooms, but with the intention to extend it to other goods and services, he added. The result, the Prime Minister said, was Samoa becoming a centre for offshore business.
Tui Atua vehemently denied the allegations.