LTTE streamlines its 'inland revenue department'
With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the
government and the LTTE the collection of taxes or ransom money
from civilians in the north and eastern provinces was expected to
come to a halt, or at least be curbed.
But the collection
of taxes from civilians including farmers, fisherfolk, traders and
land owners continues unabated with the practice now taking a more
formal nature. The rebels make sure a receipt is issued each time
they collect money.
collecting tax are now courteous. They are not so rude as they were.
But they still make sure they collect their dues in time,"
An eastern Muslim trader said.
LTTE cadres first move in and inform the prospective tax or ransom
payers that they wish to meet the person at a specified time. The
person is expected to call over on the given date to discuss the
matter. The bargaining begins and the dues paid.
The practice has not changed over the past few months. Civilians
who promised to pay ransom a few months ago, continue to pay and
if the payments are not made the LTTE sends a reminder. If the reminder
is ignored the civilian faces the risk of being taken away and detained
by the LTTE.
The tax quantum
varies from place to place in the north and eastern provinces as
the LTTE area leaders have been provided targets by the leadership.
The LTTE justifies collection of taxes saying that it has a large
organisation to maintain and has to look after families whose members
have been killed in the war. They claim that the money coming in
from foreign countries is not sufficient to maintain their cadres.
But, some civilians
are not impressed. A Kilinochchi resident who obviously did not
want to be identified said even if the tax was justified during
the war, there appeared to be little justification now and it was
clearly exploitation. The tax system does not apply only to farmers,
businessman and land owners, but even small wayside shops are not
spared. A shop owner said he was forced to pay Rs. 150 a month.
Not only traders but even displaced people are taxed. They have
to pay Rs. 200 to go from uncleared to cleared areas.
In Jaffna the
tax system has led to the sky rocketing of food prices and hardware
items over the past three weeks. Civilians hoped prices would drop
after the opening of the A9 highway, but the prices have gone up.
A Jaffna trader
who came to Colombo said that they were compelled to increase prices
as they were taxed between 18 and 25 per cent on items they were
taking through the A9 road. Underlining the absurdity or horror
of the situation the trader said they were able to sell the goods
at a lower price before the opening of the A9 road. The traders
have now been given a new tax format after the highway was opened.
Traders inTrincomalee and especially the Sinhalese say harsh taxes
are being imposed on them. They said they were forced to make large
contributions for the recent Pongu Thamil festival for which upto
Rs. 600,000 had been raised.
They said some of the bigger traders were also forced to fund purchasers
of weapons including multi million rupees Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers.
The trader is
issued a 'certificate' when he contributes funds for such special
purchases and some times exempted from the payment of smaller taxes.
In the eastern province the taxes and ransoms are not the only form
of harassment . Some civilians are forced to lend their tractors
or motorcycles for upto three weeks. The LTTE issues them a receipt
and generally vehicle is returned, civilians said.
Farmers say they are forced to pay taxes at various stages of cultivation.
"The farmers are first asked to pay a specific amount when
they are about to start cultivation. If the money is not paid, permission
is not given to go ahead. The farmers do not generally delay in
making the payments, as the delay of one day could affect the cultivation.
The Sunday Times
learns that despite an assurance given by the LTTE chief Velupillai
Prabhakaran to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf
Hakeem, collection of taxes from Muslims is still going on. In Vavuniya
district, collection of taxes from traders has become more convenient
as the LTTE now operates openly from there.An officer handling Tiger
finances co-ordinates the tax collection.Generally the money is
Many of the
rival Tamil groups who were thriving on tax collection from traders
in Vavuniya have now taken a back seat, while the LTTE coffers are
Usually a Kilogram of Dhal, Sugar or rice sent from Vavuniya is
usually subjected to a tax of Rs. two, while a 50 kilogram bag of
cement is taxed at Rs. 100 per bag.Other hardware items are also
In the east
a tractor owner has to pay Rs. 50,000 a year and a lorry owner Rs.
100,000. On an average 8 to 12 per cent tax is imposed on farmers
In some areas public servants are also taxed by the LTTE, but few
complaints are made.
Under the ceasefire
agreement 'the parties shall in accordance with international law
abstain from hostile acts against the civilian population, including
torture, intimidation, abduction, extortion and harassment.'
continues unabated with the LTTE now virtually making the collection
of tax as a voluntary contribution from the people. Instead of force
the LTTE now appears to be using persuasive methods and the opening
of offices in the uncleared areas is facilitating the process.
seeks A9 time extension
In the face of heavy influx of north-bound traffic, the LTTE has
requested the Government to keep the Jaffna-Kandy road open for
The LTTE made the request through the deputy head of the Sri Lanka
Monitoring Mission, Hagrup Hauckland, early this week when LTTE
political wing leader S. P. Thamil Selvam met him in Kilinochchi.
The Sunday Times
learns that the LTTE has also expressed willingness to allow security
forces in civvies to enter the LTTE controlled area in line with
the ceasefire agreement. At present civilian movement on the A9
road is allowed only between 8 am and 4.30 p.m. But the LTTE has
proposed that it be opened from 6 am to 6 p.m. while also expressing
willingness to keep the road open 24 hours a day.
Mr. Hauckland told The Sunday Times that the LTTE had expressed
concern over the delay in checking civilians .
said that since the traffic on the road has increased, it takes
longer hours to complete government security clearance. As a result
there is a long queue at the entry point. We will present the LTTE
request to the government," he said.