Member of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai has condemned the “desperate move” by the Government to seize personal funds directly from Church Ministers’ bank accounts.
Last week, Minister for Revenue Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, said not paying taxes is illegal and in turn have seized funds from Church Ministers personal accounts.
The law for Church Ministers and Head of State was passed in January, 2018 and all the church denominations complied, except the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.).
But the unilateral decision of the Government to target personal bank accounts – which is in line with the provisions of the controversial taxation law – did not sit well with Olo Fiti.
“The Government is quick to snatch the church minister funds and forgetting the massive contribution by the clergy assuring that peace rules in the country.
“The government is missing the big picture here. The crime rates would have tripled if not quadruple, if the church was not actively preaching and feeding the spiritual side of the people.
“I don’t have to remind Tialavea and the Prime Minister that without the Church in Samoa, we are nothing.
“So I appeal to the Government to reconsider their strategy and yes we have laws in place. But like Tialavea had said, we have to apply common sense, so Tialavea, why don’t you apply common sense on this issue,” said Olo Fiti.
The Salega East M.P. said whenever there are issues between families and the village councils, Church Ministers take on the role of neutral party.
“They keep the peace in the village and they work together with the Village Council, imagine if they were not involved in keeping everyone in line, what would Samoa look like?
“We have seen this too many times and that is why we must not burn the bridge. Rethink, re-strategise and reconsider,” was Olo Fiti’s appeal to the Government.
He further noted that if the Government is desperate for money to pay off the $1.1 billion loans then go after businesses and seize their assets.
“Last week the Samoa Observer published the $87.6 million uncollected revenue from previous years, they should put all emphasis on collecting those millions but not the Church,” he said.
Olo also had a go at seizing funds based on the salary assessments that are conducted.
As reported earlier, Tialavea said the seizure of funds is for each and every church minister who has not filed their monthly taxes, “yet some church ministers I understand are making less than the $15,000 threshold”.
But Olo said this is ridiculous and warned that the Government is playing with fire.