Friday, October 16, 2015

Sri Lanka Customs

Over three years ago I went to India with my mother, like most other Sri Lankans we did some shopping and my mother bought two dozens of Henna hair color claiming this is much better than in Sri Lanka. Since I’m not using I can’t say which is better than the others but Indian product was relatively less expensive than in Sri Lanka. Both of us safely reached to Katunayake international airport around 22.30 by Sri Lankan Air Line. We were tired but As usual before the arrival we were going through airport office custom .The Sri Lankan custom officer while we he was still using his mobile phone orders us to open our luggage.There were few sarees that my mother bought in my luggage mostly were books.

Then the custom office found out Henna hair color packets. There were two dozen which technically 24   sachets packets. The custom officer showed his awareness of law and said only 6 packs can be allowed. He questioned my mother whether she is running a saloon .other 18 number of packets will subjected to taxes. Then I politely asked can I take 6 packets claiming that I’m using then only another 12 packets will subjected to the tax. With this question the custom officer got furiously angry. He questioned saying are you trying to violate Sri Lankan custom law in a smart way.he can take legal action  based on my idea of violation Sri Lankan custom law.

Well my mother is law abiding citizen than me.She said I’ll take only 6 packets  which is allowed by law. The custom office can keep the other. I also felt it’s a sensible decision .As a country we should be happy about this kind of lawful custom officers. They are earning for this country, but they are equally fair on every case our country is a much better place
As per the mission the Sri Lanka Customs is dedicated to enforce revenue and social protection laws of the state while facilitating the trade with the objective of contributing to the national effort and in due recognition thereof. Also Sri Lanka Customs is one of the oldest Customs administrations in the world which celebrated its 200 years in 2009.
Also if we trace ancient Sri Lanka there is evidence of the existence of Customs tax collection in Sri Lanka over 2000 years ago at the Godawaya Harbor in Hambanthota.Well this is not Hmbanthota Mahinda Rajapaksha Port..

The stone inscription existing at the Godawaya temple provides probably one of the oldest evidence on Customs duties in the entire world. Ancient internal port had functioned from 2nd Century AD to 12th Century AD at Godawaya in Southern Sri Lanka near the mouth of the Walawe River. This inscription had been made by King Gajabahu (114-136AD) and states that he had ordered the donation of duties collected at the port to the Godawaya Temple for its maintenance.
Like many other things in Sri Lanka we have proud history, but sadly we can’t be happy or proud about our present or future.

Currently  Sri Lanka custom is a heaven for corruption. Our general believes is the police, the politics are the most corrupted. But when it comes to Sri Lanka custom their corruption is become a custom officer in Sri Lanka not an easy task. A degree or equivalent qualifications are must. Out of all government services Sri L lanka custom officers five scale salary which including commissions for their outstanding performances. Most of Sri Lankan custom officer are educated in Sri Lanka through the free education up to the university. We can understand a poor police cop getting 1000 SLR as a bribe where his monthly income most cases less than 25000SLR.But why highly paid custom officer are taking bribes in millions?

Few days ago Three Customs officials were arrested while allegedly accepting a bribe of Rc. 125 million, which is equaling to 1.68 million  US$ . According to Bribery Commission sources this is the largest ever recorded case of bribe taking, detected by them. This much of money any government officer may not be able to save in his whole life.

The Customs officers in question has informed a foreign company that a payment of Rs 1,500 million was required for the release of a consignment of spare parts imported to be used by the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB). Later, the three Customs officers are said to have solicited a bribe of Rs.150 million while promising to waive off the duty and other payments. Following negotiations, the bribe had been reduced to Rs 125 million. The company had later informed the Bribery Commission about the incident.

The three suspects nabbed are  Assistant Customs Authority M.D.U.P. Perera, Deputy Director Customs  Jagath Gunathileke , and Customs officer Sudheera Parakrama ironically one of the above officers received 30 million reward few months ago for his outstanding performances.

This is a one incident, there was a, another incident a custom office directly responsible of murdering his colleague simply because he has refused to take part of the huge bribe. Both of they were educated in Peradeniya University; we can’t believe what are the objectives of our education.
But at least we can be happy; we have well activated commission of bribery after the new director general. We salute you Madam…….!

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