Sri Lanka ‘siphoning off’ refugee aid money – The Times

[TamilNet, Monday, 06 July 2009, 11:59 GMT]
The Sri Lankan Government is trying to siphon off millions of pounds of humanitarian aid by imposing a tax on all funding for aid groups, The Times newspaper reported Monday. Aid workers told the paper that Burma was the only other country that they could remember imposing such a tax — one of several new measures hampering their efforts to help victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Colombo is backdating taxes to 2005, the paper also said.

The government has started to insist that local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should pay the 0.9 per cent tax on all their funding.

That could amount to several million pounds, as there are at least 89 such international and local organisations in Sri Lanka, mostly helping victims of the 2004 tsunami and the civil war.

The new tax regime was unveiled in 2006 but not enforced immediately, the paper said. Most agencies did not comply, as they hoped to persuade the Government to change it, according to aid workers.

In the past year, however, the Government has grown increasingly hostile towards foreign aid groups and Western donors, accusing many of sympathising with the Tamil Tigers, it said.

“If it’s non-profit work, it shouldn’t be taxed — there should be incentives to work in particular areas instead,” Jeevan Thiagarajah, the executive director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, told the paper.

The Government says that the tax is designed to crack down on NGOs that abused Sri Lankan law and squandered their funds on their own staff after the tsunami.

Aid workers, however, say the new rules do not grant tax exemption for all the work they are doing — and want to do — to help 300,000 Tamil refugees in army-run camps.

Some say the tax contravenes the international disaster response guidelines drawn up by the Red Cross in 2007 with the participation of 140 countries, including Sri Lanka.

“This is money on which people have already paid tax in their own countries and which is supposed to be helping people in need,” said one aid worker. “This is a desperate money-making measure by the Government.”

Another charity worker said: “This runs contrary to everything that the humanitarian aid community stands for.”

Most aid groups already have to pay tax on imported equipment, such as vehicles, as in many other countries. In 2005, Oxfam was forced to pay more than £600,000 in tax for importing 25 Indian four-wheel-drive vehicles to Sri Lanka for tsunami relief — despite the Government announcing a temporary waiver for aid groups.

World Vision, the US-based Christian relief group, has paid $120,000 for 2005-06, and made advance payments of $200,000 for the following three years, according to its accounts.

“There are vast discrepancies between individual agencies,” said Mr Thiagarajah. “There’s quite a few whose tax files are still open.”


External Links:
Australian: Victims of Tamil Tiger war hit by Sri Lanka tax on aid workers
Times: Victims of Tamil Tiger war hit by Sri Lanka tax on aid workers

 

Latest 15 Reports
10.07.20 00:05   Photo
SL Police harasses Shivajilingam at 25th Remembrance of Navaali massacre in Jaffna
09.07.20 09:33  
SL Navy brutally assaults Tamil fishers in Mullaith-theevu
08.07.20 16:33   Photo
Sinhala colonists encroach into Kangku-veali, Mean-kamam reservoirs in Trincomalee
07.07.20 19:36   Photo
Colombo schemes to expand ilmenite scooping into North from Pulmoaddai in East
06.07.20 19:06  
Colombo transfers Tamil Political Prisoners to notorious Anuradhapura prison
05.07.20 23:06   Photo
University students, Shivajilingam brave SL harassment to commemorate fallen Black Tigers
04.07.20 22:28   Photo
Monk commanding Sinhala-Buddhicisation of North-East threatens Tamil villagers in Batticaloa
03.07.20 19:28   Photo
After Naavat-kuzhi, Colombo targets Poonakari for Sinhala colonisation across Jaffna lagoon
02.07.20 22:26  
Colombo imposes restrictions on Tamil valour related symbolism in schools of North
01.07.20 13:22  
New secret unit among four SL military and police squads competing to arrest Tamil youth in North
30.06.20 22:10  
Tamils blocked from accessing properties near SL Navy training base in Champoor, Trincomalee
29.06.20 23:29   Photo
Moragoda advising Gotabaya prompts Sinhala parties to scrap Provincial Councils
28.06.20 22:06  
India privileging BRIC/RIC over Quad ‘discordant’, says former US top diplomat
27.06.20 22:11  
Indo-Pacific expert wants US to seek opportunities in ‘Sri Lanka’
26.06.20 21:24  
Russia steps up influence on New Delhi to uphold “multilateralism” against US “rules-based order”
 
Find this article at:
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29730