By Wakeley Paul
The Sri Lankan Daily News newspaper of March 4, 2005, outlined what the Government of Sri Lanka claimed was their effort to expedite the delivery of aid to Tsunami victims. There has been such an outcry about the arbitrary imposition of duty on relief items that the government has felt obliged to respond. Now duty will be waived if the items are handed over to the government itself for distribution.
A simple analysis of the policy's provisions reveals that the government intends to exercise a dictatorial role as to what items will be permitted in duty free; and then determines to whom those items shall be distributed. The intentions of the donors are of no concern to them.
The only provision for donors to distribute items to intended victims is in paragraph 12, which is subject to two totally arbitrary determinations by the government. The first is 'security clearance,' whatever that means, with no provision to legally challenge the government's determination ; and even then, only under government supervision. Why, and what does this mean? If the government supervisor determines that an item should not be distributed despite 'security clearance,' can it can be forfeited at this stage? This is a most dangerous and sinister provision.
The provisions for the distribution of aid are both a fraud and a farce perpetrated on the Tamils & Muslims of the NorthEast. All aid relief intended for them will be used by the government and the people would be denied their due. Presidents Bush & Clinton, the United Nations, private donors, donor governments and the NGOs should all ensure that their decisions as to how relief should be distributed should be honored rather than defied. Otherwise, the Sri Lankan government will make a mockery of tsunami relief and once again succeed in continuing their policy of racial discrimination.
The government will also succeed in duping the international community that their intentions are honorable. The fact is that the Sinhalese rulers have believed that the government has derived its authority to rule from the Buddha, rather than by the consent of the governed. Their Constitution is steeped in this belief. This belier has made them undemocratic and racially discriminatory, an undesirable quality they cannot seem to rid themselves of. This determined effort to discriminate will divide this island still further; and no one will be to blame but those in the government and the international community - if they let the government get away with this policy on aid.
Govt announces new measures:
THE Government yesterday announced a series of measures to expedite the clearance of relief and reconstruction goods entering the country.
Under the new terms announced by Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, most items will be cleared duty free for speedy distribution under the relevant government authorities and personnel. The duty concessions will be valid till April 26, 2005.
However, items such as rice will not be allowed in duty free to protect the interests of the local farmers. Communications equipment should have prior clearance from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
The following guidelines will be applied:
(1) In order to protect domestic rice producers, import of rice will be discouraged. Duty waivers will not be granted for consignments of rice being sent as relief goods. All such consignments of rice imported will be kept in bonded warehouses.
(2) New garments and textiles would be cleared free of duty provided they are handed over to the Director/Social Services for use by the tsunami victims.
(3) Duties would be charged for used garments and textiles. If duties are not paid (or cargo is abandoned) the Director, Social Services will dispose them in a suitable manner.
(4) Tents - provided tents are suitable for local conditions, could be cleared free of duty.
Such consignments should be handed over to the Director/Social Services or to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation or Commissioner General Essential Services.
(5) Building materials and building construction machinery/equipment would be cleared free of duties and taxes on the recommendations of the Urban Development Authority.
(6) School supplies, pencils, paper and shoes for school children would be cleared free of duty provided consignments are handed over to the Director/Social Services for distribution among schoolchildren in affected areas under their supervision.
(7) Medicines and Medical Supplies and Medical and Surgical Equipment which comply with regulatory requirements would be cleared free of duty provided they are consigned to the Director General/Health Services.
Alternatively donors may be allowed to hand over these items to any Govt. Hospitals or Medical Camps with the approval of the relevant health authority.
(8) Water pumps and water purification equipment would be cleared free of duty subject to equipment to be installed under the relevant District Secretary.
(9) Gully Emptiers and Water Bowsers would be cleared free of duty subject to consignments being handed over to the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation for distribution among District Secretaries or local authorities.
Generators would be cleared free of duty subject to consignments being handed over to the Director Social Services to be distributed under the supervision of District secretaries and Divisional secretaries or relevant Government agencies.
(10) Communication equipment would be cleared only on the recommendations of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Defense.
(11) Electrical appliances, consumer durable and computers / computer peripherals should have prior clearance from the Treasury before handing over to the appropriate authorities.
(12) All other relief items meant for tsunami victims should be released without duties and taxes on condition that such items will be handed over to the Director, Social Services/Secretary, Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction or to the relevant government authority for distribution among intended beneficiaries.
However, after security clearance the Director, Social Services / Secretary, Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation can release relief related items falling under this category to the donors for the distribution among intended beneficiaries under the supervision of relevant District Secretaries or the Divisional Secretaries provided that the relevant District Secretary / Divisional Secretary undertakes the supervision of the distribution..
All consignments should comply with Regulatory and Security clearance procedures.
Concessions of duties and taxes on relief supplies received by the UN Agencies will be granted by the Treasury in terms of the MemoXranda of Understanding signed with them.
The duty concessions will be valid only for goods cleared up to 26 04.2005.
Daily News, March 4, 2005
Posted March 10, 2005