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Sri Lanka taxes wheelchair donation for Tamils

The Sri Lankan government has taxed a charity for importing wheelchairs for Tamil war victims.

322 wheelchairs and other mobility equipment destined for the north of the island were taxed $8,000 by Sri Lankan customs.

The head of the Yorkshire based charity, PhysioNet, has condemned the move by the government.

Peter Thompson said the shipment took over 3 months to clear customs.

"This is a record for the longest time one of our shipments has languished on the docks of a recipient country - and that includes some of the most corrupt and inefficient countries in Africa." he told the BBC.

Mr Thompson said it appeared as if the Sri Lankan authorities placed obstacles ‘every step of the way’ to prevent the shipment being delivered on time.

"Only following endless paperwork and the payment of $8,000 was the container released and allowed to be transported to the north of the country,

"During the three months it took for these problems to be resolved, the demurrage charges were building up substantially in Colombo.

"It's difficult to conclude that this is anything other than a glaring example of the Sri Lankan authorities victimising the Tamil community."

A government official defended the imposing of duties, saying all imports, including those for charitable purposes, are subject to tax.

He explained the delay in the clearance of the shipment was due to the need to gain special permission from various government ministries, as the delivery was destined for the north.

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