Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), threatened trade union action to restore the tax-free permit facility for the doctors and tried to paralyze the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Administration. The government capitulated under pressure restoring the tax-free permits for doctors.
Permit holders had openly abused this tax-free permit scheme, since its inception for unjust enrichment by defrauding the government revenue
As a lawyer and a public interest litigation activist I believe in the people’s ‘right to know’ the inside untold story behind this fraudulent act.
In the first place I should say that I have no business with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration or deposed Rajapaksa regime.
Just last November 2015 the Customs Department seized over 100 Toyota Prados vehicles at the Hambantota port imported on tax-free permits. Most of these permits had been issued to Doctors, which has been purchased by the Car importers for a substantial ‘price-tag’, ranging into 1 to 2 million rupees. These vehicles were seized for committing an allege revenue fraud. The permit holders (mostly doctors) were summoned to face a customs investigation where they admitted selling their permits, which was initially prohibited by allowed later by the former Rajapaksa regime.
These permits are issued under the Customs law (Section 19A) in the ‘Public Interest’, that granting of such a facility would enable the recipient of the permit to discharge the office effectively.
Doctors are not the only swindlers who abuse this permit scheme for unjust enrichment, but all other professionals, Parliamentarians and Cabinet of Ministers do the same with a scant respect to the Rule of Law.
When the Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake announced in his 2015 budge proposals to discontinue with this wrongful practice all right thinking people overwhelmingly approved it. Then as the Parliamentarians raised a strong protest, the so-called policy was withdrawn, accommodating the politicians. And further to protests made by other professionals, including doctors, the policy was further relaxed to accommodate all of them.
Wrong is wrong, regardless of the office held by the persons concerned. This country has suffered enough in the hands of the cheats for decades and should not afford this form of blatant abuses to continue unchecked.
In my view, the Prime Minister should request the Director General of Customs to make available the names of all Doctors, who have sold their duty free permits and also the details of the vehicles seized by Customs at the Hambantota Port with the information of the total amount of revenue defrauded by this abuse.
The Prime Minister should respect people’s right to know this information and expose this abuse to the general public, who are treated unequally, forcing them to pay penal levies, even for the basic cheapest cars they import, in most cases the government levy on which is more than the value of the vehicle.