By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney-at-law Nagananda Kodituwakku, yesterday, alleged that government sacked Director General of Customs Mrs. P.S.M. Charles (Sarojini Charles) as she continuously resisted political interference.
Kodituwakku pointed out the government sacked Mrs. Charles soon after celebrating the International Customs Day, in Colombo.
Kodituwakku said that the UNP proved again that honest and efficient public servants were at the mercy of powerful corrupt elements in the government.
Responding to a query, Kodituwakku said that Mrs. Charles earned the wrath of the government for not giving in to illegal directives.
At the time Mrs Charles received the vital appointment she functioned as the Government Agent, Batticaloa.
Mrs Charles succeeded Chulananda Perera.
Commenting on allegations that government politicians had intervened on behalf of a major multinational, which had imported 2,800 metric tonnes of low quality pepper, causing a loss of Rs 81 mn in revenue to the state in the import of coconut oil, Kodituwakku explained how her decision to resume an investigation into an alleged fraud amounting to Rs. 16 bn under the previous administration could have contributed to her removal.
Mrs. Charles has informed the Court of Appeal of her decision through the Attorney General’s Department in spite of efforts to dissuade her, the lawyer said.
DG, Customs has told the Court of Appeal that a previous directive to impose a penalty of Rs. 100,000 each on 1,675 imported BMWs would be rescinded and an inquiry launched. Investigations have revealed how a set of falsified invoices had been presented to the Customs instead of the original documents from Germany.
Although, vehicles worth more than 25,000 USD couldn’t be exempted from taxes, tax exemptions had been received for BMWs worth over USD 30,000 each by furnishing fictitious invoices which placed the value well under USD 25,000.
Kodituwakku challenged the civil society to take up the case. Those preaching the country of good governance, accountability and rule of law couldn’t remain silent. The ousted DG, Customs set an example in a country where those elected and appointed members of parliament and their associates at key positions in the public sector ruined the national economy, Kodituwakku said.
Responding to another query, Kodituwakku said that now that Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera had claimed that Mrs Charles was removed on a cabinet decision, the government certainly owed the public an explanation as to why a courageous officer was sacked.
Kodituwakku vowed to continue to campaign for her reinstatement. The move to appoint a retired Rear Admiral to the post of DG, Customs exposed the government, the lawyer said. The government seemed bent on causing further destruction to national economy, Kodituwakku said, urging the people to be wary of the UNP government.
Kodituwakku urged the Customs to continue trade work-to-rule campaign until the government backed down. According to him, protest would continue until Mrs. Charles was brought back as head of the Department.
Responding to accusations Mrs Charles hadn’t been able to enhance state revenue and also stop cocaine imports to Sri Lanka, Kodituwakku said that cocaine stocks detected here were certainly not meant for local market. Cocaine stocks reached Colombo as those responsible based in Europe for some reason failed to remove contraband from containers, Kodituwakku said.
Kodituwakku said that those who had found fault with Mrs Charles for not enhancing state revenue caused massive losses by selling super luxury vehicles imported on duty free permits.