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Diplomatic privileges for US Peace Corps volunteers

United States Peace Corps members will be among those entitled to benefits in terms of new directives issued by Foreign Affairs Minister Tilak Marapana. This is in keeping with the agreement signed between the Sri Lankan Government and the US government in February this year concerning the programme of the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka.

The Diplomatic Privileges Act provisions have been invoked to accord equitable treatment to the Volunteers and persons performing functions under contract with the Peace Corps and their dependents.

Under the new provisions, the Government will provide to the volunteers the same exemptions with respect to taxes on payments that they receive to defray their living costs, on income derived from their officials duties, and on income from other sources outside Sri Lanka; customs duties or other charges on their personal property introduced into Sri Lanka for their own use; and all other taxes or other charges (including immigration/visa fees), except licence fees as provided to members of the administrative and technical staff of the Embassy of the United States in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The Government will also exempt from all taxes (including value-added taxes) customs duties, and other charges all equipment, supplies, and other goods and services introduced into or acquired in Sri Lanka by the US Government or any contractor financed by it, for use to enable the US Government to discharge its responsibilities under this agreement.

The Government of Sri Lanka will also exempt such persons, and members of their families forming part of their households who are not citizens or permanent residents of Sri Lanka from all taxes or income derived from their Peace Corps work or other sources outside Sri Lanka, from all customs duties and other charges on their personal property introduced into Sri Lanka for their own use, and from all other taxes or other charges (including immigration/visa fees) except licence fees.

The Government also introduced several privileges and immunities under the Diplomatic Privileges Act keeping in terms of the Agreement between the Government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees signed in December, 2005.

This will grant immunity to UNHCR, its property, funds and assets from every form of legal process, except in so far as in any particular case where it has expressly waived its immunity. The premises of UNHCR office will also be held inviolable and the property, funds and assets of UNHCR, wherever situated be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of inference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.

UNHCR will also not be subject to any financial controls, regulations or moratoria and may freely acquire from authorised commercial agencies, hold and use negotiable currencies, maintain foreign currency accounts, and acquire through authorised institutions, hold and use funds, securities and gold, bring funds, securities, foreign currencies and gold into the host country from any other country, use them within the host country or transfer them to other countries.

The Government has also accorded the representatives, the staff members and their families, as well as the office opened for the operation of the framework agreement between the Government and South Korea concerning loans from the Economic Development Corporation Fund for the years 2017-2019 several privileges, exemptions and benefits.

These will include exemption from income tax and other fiscal charges imposed on or in connection with any emoluments or allowances remitted to them from overseas; exemption from consular fees, customs duties, taxes and other charges of a similar nature.

New provisions have also been made to apply in respect of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce to the extent necessary to give effect to the terms of the Agreement between Germany and Sri Lanka, entered into on March 6, 2018.

The purpose of the delegation is to promote trade and economic relations between companies, organisations and trades persons from Germany and Sri Lanka.

Author: TELO Jaffna