Question: Prime Minister, the Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, (C.C.C.S.) has recently expressed publicly through the media strong views opposing the PAYE tax reform which requires the clergy to pay their PAYE tax. Have the C.C.C.S. Elders responded formally to the Government’s written response?
Tuilaepa: Not yet. I was informed that the Committee of CCCS Elders had already met last month on the Government’s written response to their very detailed written submission and to date, I have not received a courtesy of a written reply. In the meantime, the Inland Revenue Ministry is proceeding with the implementation of the law.
Question: So what do you think of the Secretary’s behaviour of publicly announcing his own personal views and yet the public remains uninformed officially of the C.C.C.S. Elders’ collective decision on an issue of great public interest?
Tuilaepa: The Secretary is a dedicated and obedient servant of the Elders and he observes faithfully the usual requirements of a professional Secretary. That is, he must follow exactly what his peers desire him to do. In this C.C.C.S. religious environment a holy life of obedience is observed and good governance is unknown.
Question: Prime Minister, so you are not really offended?
Tuilaepa: Oh, no, no, no, no, never! In fact, I greatly admire the poor guy with my utmost sympathy. I suspect he never sleeps but spends hours and hours thinking up new and strange unheard of ideas to keep his Chairman and Deputy Chairman happy. But the more he spills out new and very odd biblical views the more he exposes the Elders and the entire C.C.C.S. body to further public embarrassment and ridicule. This loose cannon approach of shooting aimlessly needs to be addressed seriously by the Elders unless of course they enjoy it.
Question: For example?
Tuilaepa: Someone mentioned that the Rev. Secretary who now seems to act freely as the authorised spokesman on C.C.C.S. theology has proclaimed that not all authorities are not from God and that world authorities are therefore earthly appointees. The poor guy is getting more and more funny. He tries very, very hard to twist the very simple direct, clear and down to earth message of St Paul to the Romans 13:1-7 on “All authorities come from God.” He has even contradicted Lord Jesus’ response to Pilate during His trial that “You have no power (or authority) over me if it had not been given to you from (God) above!”(St John 19:11) Pilate was an employee of Caesar, a pagan leader of Rome.
Question: Rev. Vavatau also claims that Jesus words “to give to Caesar what is Caesar” have been misinterpreted and taxing the Clergy is a colonial mindset.
Tuilaepa: We can all see now that the Rev. Secretary is the sole authority of the C.C.C.S. in matters of faith and any biblical reference that does not support his peers’ preconceived views is wrong. St Paul says “Everyone” must pay tax and duties. That is very, very, very super clear. He did not say “Everyone” except Rev. Vavatau and Company must pay their taxes. Rev. Vavatau faithfully pays his tax even before the tax law was passed. So all this kerfuffle on the tax of the Clergy is about nothing.
As to the colonial mindset, Samoa is not a colony. And every democratic state in the world like Tuvalu, U.S.A. or Russia depends on tax to fund their public expenditure and keep the country going.
Question: You said publicly before that the PAYE Tax is a law of love – How come? The tax in fact takes away part of a person’s income. It is not love.
Tuilaepa: You are certainly a one-eyed Jack! You must also look at what government does with your tax. The PAYE tax taken from the high income earners are used to pay for the services like Education and Health Services, benefitting the general public. These are deeds of love envisaged in God’s First Commandments to love God and your neighbour. Of course, if your income is below the threshold you pay no tax.
Question: St Paul says that all authorities come from God. Does that mean, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Cain and Judas the traitor who were evil were also appointed by God?
Tuilaepa: That’s what St Paul meant. For whatever reasons, we mortals are not privy to God’s divine purposes. When you see God in the next life – ask him why.
Question: What possible impact you can think of resulting from this standoff?
Tuilaepa: The number of church goers in the C.C.C.S. may continue to go down. Many C.C.C.S. churchgoers are educated taxpayers who understand the law and are supportive of the tax reform. The one form of peaceful protest for them is to leave the Church. That is unfortunate. In 1962 on Independence, the C.C.C.S. had over 52% membership with 48% of the total population at the time spread over the rest of the Christian denominations in Samoa. A Census two years ago registered a 20+ percent membership of C.C.C.S. out of the total population of Samoa. Since the Census two years ago, that percentage may very well decline further whilst memberships in other denominations continue to rise. Some years ago, Rev. Oka Fau’olo warned that the C.C.C.S. preachers should stop attacking the other denominations for stealing their sheep – The C.C.C.S. must look inward and to start cultivating good pastures for their sheep to remain faithful believers in C.C.C.S. dogma. It is a wakeup call to the C.C.C.S. elders to start asking hard questions as to why this mass exit occurs.
Question: So what is your final advice?
Tuilaepa: Leave politics to the politicians. Do like the other 34 Christian Denominations have done – Leave the tax issue to the pastors and their parishes. Those pastors who have small income below the threshold do not pay tax. And those with high income should make their contributions for the welfare of their neighbours.