Tick tax took
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.

"The Tigers 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 promptly paid.

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 filled.
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 taxed.

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 and traders.
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.'

The 'extortion' 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.

LTTE 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 longer duration.
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 .

"The LTTE 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.

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