Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sad Day for Sri Lanka Surfing

For the first time in the history of Surfing in our country, a huge donation of surfboards was made to us by a number of organization in UK. When doing the documentation there was an error. We mentioned the Name of the Surf Club as the receiver thinking that this was the most legitimate thing instead of a individual name. We weren’t VAT registered or had a TIN number and the problems started with us being required to register the club for VAT and obtain a TIN number.

Most if not all the club members were from the other side of the island and some who lived in Colombo volunteered to assist to get the documentation. We soon realized that this process would take at least a week which means the consignment would be charged for demurrage. With this in mind we decided to explain our situation to a number of persons in the relevant authorities to no avail. They said we had to stick to the process and get the club registered for VAT etc.

We were not trying to elude paying the relevant taxes but sought a way rectify the error made above. If we can just transfer the receiver to an individual as against to a club then we can get the consignment sooner.

In utter desperation we went to the office of the highest authorities to see if his office can intervene to assist in our cause. All we need a note/ directive stating that this is genuine cause which were highlighted as follows;

1. The surfboards would be handed over free of charge to the surf clubs on the east, south and west coast clubs. We would teach the beneficiaries how to conduct surf instructing and earn a living out of the sport. Perhaps get them out of the bad influences and help them make something concrete from their lives and talents.
2. The surfboards will be used to encourage the sport in the island amongst male and females. Many of them are from the poorer families. Like other sports like Cricket, surfing offers a very promising option as a professional sport. We have the most critical resource – Waves! We just need the boards and some professional guidance.
3. This initiative would give impetus to create surfing revolution to raise the standard of surfing in the island and helping us draw closer to our dream of seeing our countrymen compete at the international surfing circuit.

The repercussions of us not being able to get the surfboards out on time would lead to;

1. The club members unable to bear the demurrage cost
2. The boards thus being ‘stuck’ and eventually ‘lost’ at the port
3. The surfers not getting their surfboards – no practice, no additional source of income perhaps a new livelihood
4. The donors being disappointed and not assisting Sri Lanka due to ‘strict rules’ and ‘short term focus’
5. The locals surfers not being able to pursue a dream of competing internationally and bringing fame to our country

Having shared this viewpoint and after much pleading one would expect at least a glimmer of hope but the words were, ‘This is out of our focus, you need to go through the process’. Having pleaded again and mentioning that Sri Lanka would lose out on the opportunity to position itself as a surfing destination and be a competitive force in the surfing world the answer was ‘there’s nothing I can do’.

This was certainly the most saddest day of my life. To see a dream being shattered. Rules are rules I am sure. But true leadership is to look beyond the rules and understand the motive and genuine intention of a plea and make things happen. We are not robots to have to stick to a specific routine or code, we are humans. We were not asking for a duty free car or a land or anything like that. In fact we were are willing to pay the taxes applicable. We just asked for them to give a directive about our intention, change the receiver from a club to a person so we don’t have to go through the process of registering for VAT and obtaining TIN numbers thus helping us to get the items out faster.

I just got back from Cinnamon Grand Hotel (no I didn’t party or eat at a fancy restaurant, I just needed to pick up something). But while there I see a brand new Mercedes Benz with no number plates. There were tons of other fancy cars near to it and lot of armed forces and I say to myself, ‘man, I just ask them to help us by perhaps giving a directive by a letter thus making the process faster so that the poor guys don’t have to bust a month’s salary to pay the Rs. 15,000 in additional cost'. Note month’s salary and Rs. 15,000.

It’s pretty painful to think that the poor guys always get screwed and the big guys always get through. Yes, its life. Perhaps now its time to make the change.

I don’t know what will happened. I don’t know the outcome of this post. I hope someone would see that our intention is genuine and perhaps help us. Yes we will get registered next time but just  help us to get the boards released faster, that’s all we ask.

Tomorrow the boys will miss work, take a bus from the other side of the country and travel to Colombo. Duration of the journey estimated at 12 hours (yes, in the bus its 12 (unlike in a car or helicopter) and with this heat, it is going to be a long tough journey). We will probably have to find accommodation etc as well. A lot of money again spent. Why? Because we are passionate about the sport and in-spite of all the hardship we will and continue to face, we will strive to see at least a bit of our dream being realized. Sri Lanka - The Birth of a Surfing Nation.

12 comments:

Kirigalpoththa said...

Sorry about all the hassle.

..Still it is great to see the passion you guys are showing to realize the ultimate goal.

Yes, all the controls are for wrong reasons.

u4j10 said...

I may be able to help you. Drop me a mail.

dilsiri said...

thanks guys U4j10, i mailed you....

Anonymous said...

You can do all things through Him who strengthens you... Have faith.. He will make a way when there seems to be no way.

Keep up the passion

Arugam said...

We might also be able to help.
Be assured, that we would do what we can, if you need us. Free of charge.
As a first step, the Social Network will assist. To draw more attention to this bizarre case of Bureaucracy.
See what the Global Surfing Community thinks of it next.
Potential Investors, specially might wish to follow this case with interest, too.
Personally, I just wonder if we are still in the middle ages, or if there has actually been any progress.
May common sense prevail!

live2ride said...

Sri Lanka customs has the most ridiculous rules. I feel you pain, because we have been there. Once we actually had to give up on the good due to this stupid red tape. It's all unnecessary. They love the red tape, because that gives them more leverage to ask for bribes!

Anonymous said...

Gutted about this Dil, praying for a solution. Keep going, donr give up. Phil Williams

DilsiriW said...

I dont think its a huge problem. We just need to spend a lot of time and effort to do the paperwork. However the sadder part is how the guys failed to help a sport like this that has so much potential. They also failed to see the impact it can have to the tourism industry of the country. Yes an error was made on the paperwork, but the guys who had the power to help rectify the problem just didnt think it was something they needed to 'interfere' with. Anyway, now we know. I think on the plus side, hardships bring the community together. This is great. There are also a lot of people who understood our plight and gave encouragement. This is great, from Fred in rural Arugam Bay to Blogger #U4J10 :) hehe. Perhaps in a week the boards will be out. Hoepfully before :) Thanks Phil for the support.

Anonymous said...

This is unfortunately a typical day in the life of people trying to do something positive for the future in Sri Lanka. The way forward is strewn with obstacles in this country, not least because the govt refuses to update this stupid bureaucratic system that they inherited from the British years ago. Whether it's renewing a visa or bringing in a surfboard, or driving your car along the road - there's always someone in some level of the system that is on the take. I love Sri Lanka and the ordinary people that have to put up with this day to day, but it's an unbelievably corrupt country and I'm afraid it puts a lot of people off of doing business here. I wish you luck getting the surfboards out to where they're intended to go. I know the guys involved and I know they'll be sad about it. Keep batting away Dilshan, it's worth it...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Dilsiri, Dishan's the tea, stupid

DilsiriW said...

Ha Ha, yes thats the tea. Yes I am in love with the country and even think highly of the President. However, as you correctly said the country needs a facelift. I know tons of people who had problems trying to get approvals etc. Its pretty sad.

Well, there's hope and I know in a week we'll get the boards but the fact of the matter is the hassle we have (and still going through).

I sent an e mail to a Indika who is a Presidential Advisor - he asked me to send a mail after the discussion I had with him. Also mails were sent to the Chairman of the Board of Tourism, lets see what they have to say.

Would they interfere and make things easier? Or are we 'not so important citizens' of the country that are required to take leave from work and get the stuff cleared the lenghty way.

We will know in a few days.

By the way, I really dont know why we even need to pay the VAT etc. This is like a service we are doing to the country and we are even taxed for it. Our donors are also wondering why they need to pay tax for a donation.

Does anyone know where this money goes? Hmmmmmm

DilsiriW said...

And the tea is DILMA :)Dilshan plays Cricket.