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Speaker says he has no power to deal with smuggler MP

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Mahinda Yapa

By Norman Palihawadane

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said on Friday that he had no powers to initiate disciplinary actions against Ali Sabri Raheem, who was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake along with a stock of undeclared gold and mobile phones on Tuesday (May 23).

Commenting on a letter handed over to him by 20 opposition MPs seeking action against Raheem, the Speaker said that the Opposition MPs stated that Raheem had misused his MP’s privileges.In the letter, the MPs noted that Raheem had misused Parliament privileges accorded to MPs and his diplomatic passport to smuggle the undeclared goods via the VIP lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA).

“He has violated the Parliament-approved Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament in its entirety,” the letter said.

The group stressed that the violation of laws passed in Parliament by the MPs themselves will lead to a breakdown of trust among the public towards MPs of both the Government and the opposition.

“It may lead to a situation where the citizens will also refuse to adhere to the country’s laws,” they said.  The MPs, therefore, called on the Speaker to take strict action against the offending MP.

The request was signed by opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, several other MPs of the SJB, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara, Supreme Lanka Coalition member MP Udaya Gammanpila, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara and several others.

Puttalam District MP Ali Sabri Raheem was arrested at the BIA along with a stock of undeclared gold and mobile phones on May 23.

The Customs officials on duty at the airport had impounded a total of 3.5kg of undeclared gold and 91 mobile phones from the possession of the parliamentarian who was returning to the island from overseas.Later, the MP was fined Rs. 7.5 million and released on payment of same while the undeclared gold and mobile phones were confiscated.

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