Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi addressing Parliament this morning
APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 29 MAY 2018: The decision by the Congregational Christian Church to reject paying government taxes has been described as the Church pointing a gun at the heads of the Government.
The statement was made by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi during a 40 minute long Ministerial Statement in Parliament this morning where he addressed the issues emanating from the decision of the Church’s General Assembly last week.
He stated that Parliament is the supreme law-making body of the land and rejecting the law already passed is rejecting Parliament and the law will be fully applied to those who break it.
Tuilaepa emphasized the need for church ministers to make a contribution to the overall development of the country as everybody else. He said for 56 years since independence, church ministers have been exempted and it is about time they make a contribution.
He said that this is a simple issue made difficult by those who refuse to understand and referred to a notice in the Savali newspaper by the German colonial administration in 1911 that reminded church ministers to pay their taxes.
Tuilaepa also challenged the church’s power to influence politics and assertions that this law will be the downfall of the HRPP government.
“This is a very shallow assessment made by just as shallow people,” he told Parliament.
“Why? It is because God appoints the country’s leaders to lead a government founded on Him.”
Then he surmised that only a minority of the Church attend the General Conference – Fonotele and those who make the major decisions that matter remain in the villages.
Tuilaepa who has previously criticized and threatened the Church General Secretary for not providing the proper advice to the church Elders Committee, implied that the church is being advised by young untitled men – taulele’a and inferred that that led to the fall of King Rehoboam (in the old Testament).
He also said the Secretary is pushing other church ministers not to pay taxes, when he himself is paying government taxes.
He ended by referring to the Budget just delivered by the Minister of Finance where $932 million talā is allocated for development projects paid for by local tax payers and overseas taxpayers through development aid.
The church leaders were supposed to meet with the Prime Minister yesterday on the decision that offered voluntary contributions to the Government rather than paying taxes.
Tuilaepa said he waited yesterday and this morning but the church leaders did not come.
He acknowledged the support of the other church denominations of the law and some CCCS ministers who are already registered and paying taxes.
Parliament is adjourned for two weeks to convene 19 June for the budget debate.