A yahapalana racket?
Posted on January 14th, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island

White vans and Lamborghinis ruined the image of the Rajapaksa government. Now, black Defenders and Prados have landed the present dispensation in trouble. Customs trade unionists tenaciously hold on to their demand for a probe into an alleged Prado racket which is said to have cost the cash-strapped state coffers a whopping Rs. 3 bn.

The All Ceylon Customs Service Union (ACCSU) blew the lid off what it called a mega vehicle racket a few moons ago. They claimed that about 200 Prado SUVs detained by the Customs Central Investigation Division at the Hambantota Port on the grounds that the actual transaction values were not reflected in the commercial invoices had been released fraudulently. The ACCSU argued on Tuesday that since those SUVs had been imported under public officials’ vehicle permit scheme their value had to be below USD 35,000 each; but their actual value was USD 50,000 each and, therefore, either they had to be confiscated or the importers had to be fined three times the value of the vehicles for submitting false invoices. Nothing of the sort had happened, the ACCSU said.

The government which extols the virtues of good governance and is in overdrive mode to combat corruption should have got cracking on the serious allegation levelled by the Customs officers themselves. But, it made a mockery of its anti-corruption mission by turning its Nelsonian eye to the issue. It only made a vain attempt to use some Customs panjandrums to dispute the unionists’ claim.

The ACCSU has written to President Maithripala Sirisena, seeking his intervention to bring the Prado racketeers to justice and help recover the tax revenue the state has lost. It told the media on Tuesday that all its efforts to have the FCID investigate the alleged racket had come a cropper. Naturally, the FCID has no time for such matters. What do the Customs officers think the FCID is there for? Itsraison d’etre is to probe alleged corrupt deals of political nature and not to conduct investigations against the government politicians and their fellow racketeers.

The Customs trade unionists don’t seem to know how to galvanize the FCID, or the police for that matter, into action. If they had mentioned the names of some Opposition top guns in their complaint as suspects the FCID would have gone hell for leather to take all the SUVs into custody and arrest their owners as well as importers in next to no time. Let the Customs officers try that trick next time.

The Prado racket is a godsend for the Opposition. It can be flogged effectively to expose the corrupt elements within the government ranks. But, strangely, the cantankerous Opposition politicians have chosen to remain mum, making one wonder whether they have also benefited from the vehicle racketeers.

One may not be so naive as to believe that the Customs officers who are demanding a probe into the Prado racket are driven by altruism and their love for the country. There is a public perception that the Customs Department is a den of thieves. However, the best way to catch a thief is to set another thief.

Here is a situation where President Sirisena can put his stingray tail or madu walige to good use instead of chasing the organisers of bra-throwing gigs. He should make good his promise to probe corrupt deals and punish those responsible for them. This is the moment of truth for him. He should crack the whip, sorry, madu walige. If it can be proved that there has been a vehicle racket at the Hambantota Port and about 200 Prados have been released fraudulently as the ACCSU claims then those responsible for it deserve cat-o’-nine-tails treatment in public.

A high-level probe into the Prado racket is called for. If the yahapalana worthies have nothing to hide they must order an investigation and get to the bottom of it.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2021 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress