Customs trade unions announced that they would definitely be taking action against the proposed repeal of the Customs Ordinance, which they deemed was a move to bring a new Act to allow for racketeers to continue their illegal activities sans barriers and hindrances from the Department of Customs.
Secretary of the All Ceylon Customs Services Union, J. Gunathilaka challenged Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake to a live televised debate concerning the matter.
The provisions in the Customs Ordinance are there to achieve the collection of taxes for the State, and to engage in social protection and facilitation legal trade and law enforcement, he noted, adding that the trade unions were willing to work with the Department to amend the Ordinance with the view of further improving the Ordinance with regard to achieving its said tasks.
He remarked that the present move was a case of politicians attempting to interfere with the Department of Customs and to control it also by reducing the powers afforded to the Customs officials, by giving free reign to criminals, and by bringing the Department under control of a single person.
What will happen is that Customs officers who protect the environment and capture drug smugglers will leave their jobs, he mentioned.
The unions called for the establishment of a system for monitoring balance sheets of the incomes and expenditures of all public officials, government servants and politicians.
“Karunanayake in one of the 2015 Budget proposals had stated that a new Act would be brought to replace the Customs Ordinance. In January, the preparation of a draft for a new bill was assigned to two retired Customs officials and to a lawyer who appears for cases against the Customs,” he said.
“This present move to change the existing law is a cover-up to continue the unlawful accumulation of monies and property. There are over 2,500 employees in the Customs. Inquiries are already being held against certain Customs officers for doing their duty. Only a loss to the State and the people of the country will result,” Gunathilaka observed.