Subject: AU: E Timor supplies trapped on dock ? The Australian

E Timor supplies trapped on dock ? The Australian

14 Feb 03

By Paul Toohey

CRITICALLY needed containers of medical, health and school supplies have been stockpiled on Dili's wharf because of heavy smuggling and what East Timorese-based aid workers say is suspicion of Australia's motives.

The East Timorese are concerned that traders disguised as charitable, non-government organisations have been avoiding import duty by bringing in commodities labelled as charitable goods.

Australian charities have been caught up in the Customs crackdown and are battling to prove they are legitimate NGOs to avoid paying a 28-30 per cent import duty on donated goods.

"Containers are being held up for months and months," said the head of an Australian NGO, who is trying to work through the problem and will not be named. "They have so much distrust of outsiders. I think they find it difficult to believe people do things out of the goodness of their hearts.

"People just don't believe you when you say you're a volunteer. The attitude is that if you're rich enough to send this stuff, you're rich enough to pay duty. There is a lot of work being done to try to make the Government understand. It's all very silly."

Ray Fauntleroy, Rotary International's special representative for East Timor, said his organisation had a nightmare trying to get a container-load of refurbished motorbikes off the Dili wharf. Eighty 110cc red Honda postie bikes were ridden from Brisbane to Darwin last year in a charity bash and donated to Rotary in Darwin.

Valued at $1000 each, the 32 bikes were put in a container for Dili and the remainder were sold, with the money going to Rotary's projects in East Timor.

"The motorbikes arrived in Dili on December 14. We did all documentation and followed it to the letter," Mr Fauntleroy said. "They hit me with a bill for $9684, purely for import duties." Rotary, which spent $4100 in barge fees, was also charged $US25 ($42) a day in dock charges.

Despite representations to the East Timor cabinet, the bikes sat on the Dili wharf until two weeks ago when they were suddenly released after Mr Fauntleroy, who refused to pay the import duty, made arrangements to ship the bikes back to Darwin. With a similar Postie Bike Challenge planned for this year, Mr Fauntleroy said Rotary would not donate bikes again unless they got iron-clad guarantees there would be no repeat.

Rotary in Melbourne, which ships donated goods to Dili on behalf of other charitable organisations, has lifted a threat issued in November that it will stop sending any Timor-bound containers.

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