OPINION

‘Unworthy worthies’, ‘dishonourable honourables’

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The recent detection of gold and Smart phones in the personal luggage of a Smuggler- MP returnee from Dubai has raised several issues. The elevation of the status of Smugglers, Political interference in legal process, entitlement to VIP Lounge, exemptions from Customs checks, breach of procedures in determining the size of fines by Customs and money laundering.

Two matters are of interest. (a) who are entitled to “Diplomatic Passports and the associated privileges (including the VIP Lounge and exemption from personal Customs and Immigration formalities,) and (b) Penalties imposed by Customs on persons detected while attempting to smuggle dutiable goods.

In a recent instance, Ali Sabry Raheem, MP from Puttalam District, was detected attempting to smuggle in 3.5 Kilograms of gold and a large number of fancy mobile phones, together valued at some Rs 78 million. It is on record that he sought interference by several powerful authorities (including The Speaker of Parliament), to extricate himself. Having failed, the Customs confiscated the booty and imposed a fine of Rs 7.4 million, which was promptly paid. One understands that in such cases, the stipulated fine is three times the estimated value, while here it was even less than even one-tenth of the value of contraband. Why? The feeble tale that the contraband belonged to someone else, a fellow passenger, should alert the sleuths to follow this trail. The alacrity with which with the fine was paid suggests that such handy “ready cash”, points to previous undetected instances, How often has this intrepid traveler been abroad lately? The “Icing on the cake” is that this man left for Dubai, just three days later, to Dubai! VIP departure lounge charges, and perhaps even his airfare may have been met the State? Nothing surprises us anymore.

Clearly our Government has been less than conscientious in the issue of “Diplomatic or Official” Passports. The most scandalous instance was when Karuna Amman (Karuna of the LTTE), defected and was promptly appointed a Minister, and travelled to the UK, presumably on a Diplomatic Passport but had to spend a fortnight in prison, for overstaying his visa. A sad reflection on the discretion of the State’s exercise of a privilege.

Immunity does not imply impunity.

“Nettle Grub”


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