Did Raheem make a Customs declaration in Dubai?
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday backed an Opposition move to suspend MP Ali Sabri Raheem from the Parliament over gold smuggling.MP Raheem, elected to Parliament from the Puttalam district, on the Muslim National Alliance (MNA) ticket, switched his allegiance to the SLPP, at the very beginning of his parliamentary career. The MNA was re-registered as United National Alliance (UNA) soon after the last General Election.
The decision to request Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to suspend the MP was taken at a meeting chaired by Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa. The SLPP’s consent to suspend MP Raheem has been given by its General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam.
Political sources quoted former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa as having told the meeting, chaired by the Deputy Speaker, that the Speaker had the power to suspend the MP.In spite of being a government member, MP Raheem, on Wednesday (24), voted against a government motion to sack the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, Janaka Ratnayake.
Among those present at the meeting were Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, Tamil Progressive Alliance leader Mano Ganesan, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella, Leader of the House Susil Premjayantha, SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera, Environment Minister Nazeer Ahamed, Eran Wickremaratne and Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam.
Sources said that the issue at hand has been raised by SJB leader Premadasa at the Business Committee meeting, called by the Speaker’s Office.However, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, who nominated businessman Raheem to contest from the Puttalam District on the MNA ticket, wasn’t present at the meeting.
U.N.A. General Secretary M.M. Naimullah told The Island that in terms of a MoU, between his party and the ACMC, MP Raheem was subject to ACMC’s authority, in respect of disciplinary matters. Naimullah said that if the ACMC, in writing, informed him of whatever decision taken against MP Raheem, there wouldn’t be any delay, on his part, bringing it to the notice of the Secretary General of Parliament, and the Election Commission.
Customs freed MP Raheem, within 24 hours, after being caught trying to smuggle in gold biscuits, gold jewellery and smartphones, worth Rs 78 mn, through the VIP channel, at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Former Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told The Island he was quite surprised by the MP walking out of detention, after paying the Rs. 7.4 mn fine. Customs confiscated the contraband.
Well informed sources said that it would be of pivotal importance to establish whether the undisclosed gold brought here had been declared at the Dubai airport. Sources said that gold, worth more than 60,000 dirhams, has to be declared at the Dubai airport, and the gold invoice would have carried the name of its owner.Sources said that Customs couldn’t have completed such a complex inquiry within 24 hours.