2nd Lead (Adds corrections)
US Church, TRO pay $7,000 taxes to clear water purifiers from Sri Lanka Customs
[TamilNet, Monday, 28 February 2005, 00:10 GMT]
Five water purifiers donated by the Holy Redeemer Church in Baltimore Maryland, USA, to the people of NorthEast and addressed to Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO)-Colombo were held by Colombo customs from 27 January due to officials demanding payment of import taxes recently introduced by the Finance Ministry of Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) on relief supplies. TRO sources in Colombo said that the purifiers were finally cleared Saturday after a payment of $7,000 to the Government of Sri Lanka Customs.
Sources said that when the TRO officials went to clear the purifiers in Colombo after the arrival of equipment, customs officers had told them that the purifiers have been sent to the South through the Social Services Ministry. Dr. McConnell from the Church group and other donors in Maryland had to solicit assistance from the US State Department and the Embassy of the United States in Sri Lanka to help trace the equipment, sources said.
Sources said that later the Social Services Ministry returned the purifiers to Colombo customs which then levied the taxes on the purifiers before releasing the equipment.
Federal Express and Cathay Pacific Airlines had earlier waived their transport fees for the shipment of the water purifiers to Colombo.
Meanwhile, BBC reported that Government of Sri Lanka has denied complaints
by Linda Garnham from Guernsey (UK) charity, that aid bound for tsunami victims is being subjected to tax.
In a carefully worded response implying all relief supplies have to be channelled through Colombo to avoid taxes, the GoSL said: "All consignments carrying such relief items, as long as they are handed over to the Director Social Services or to the Secretary to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, will not be liable for any duties, taxes or port charges.
"Such items will be used only for welfare purposes. This facility is available till 26 April in order to ensure that all shipments already made will not have any liabilities on account of Custom Duties and taxes or port charges," BBC report stated.