The Sunday Leader

No Sugar Shortage, Assures CAA

  • Cocaine seizure causes concern, but

by Hafsa Sabry

Largest haul of cocaine ever to be taken into custody, which was concealed in a consignment of sugar, being inspected by President Maithripala Sirisena and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake at the Orugodawatta Container Clearing Yard

As a result of the recent cocaine seizure of sugar containers at the Sri Lanka Customs it was suspected that there will be a sugar shortage in the country to which the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) responded by assuring that there will be no such issue.

The Chairman of the CAA Hasitha Thilakarathna told The Sunday Leader there will not be such issue as the authority checks it on a daily basis and no such issue was so far detected nor do we anticipate such an issue while Lanka Sathosa also assured that there was no shortage in the sugar tender.

“There is no such shortage as such for we have been buying 350-400 metric tons on a weekly basis and that has not changed even after the seizure of many tons of Sugar by the customs recently. There are 5-6 appliers to buy our stocks,” Lanka Sathosa Chairman Rohantha Athukorala said.

It had not been an easy task to release the sugar consignments due to excessive inspections by Sri Lanka Customs officials since the cocaine phobia took place on June 14.However it is learnt that if the sugar consignments are not released soon these stocks would not be in a consumable state.

With the recent seizure of the largest-ever cocaine haul found in an imported container of sugar, many sugar importers hesitate to claim their consignments.Sri Lanka Customs told the media that there are around 800 unclaimed containers of sugar at the harbour premises.

The litigation activist Nagananda Kodituwakku claimed that Global Trading & Co, who is being accused and harassed amongst other sugar importers by the Customs for finding the narcotic substance cocaine, amongst some sugar shipments comes from Brazil via Portugal.

Kodituwakku further stated that all concerned are now well aware that the first batch of cocaine was seized three days after Customs released a sugar shipment for out-panel examination. The second batch of cocaine too was detected by the importer himself at his storage facility after another sugar shipment was released by Customs followed by physical examination of the sugar by Customs.

“It is pertinent to mention here that in the second instance it was the importer who called the Police Narcotics Bureau, which had come to the importer’s premises and taken over the contraband of cocaine found amongst sugar bags,” Kodituwakku said.

Therefore, now it is obvious that the Sugar importers have nothing to do with the cocaine found in the sugar shipments but definitely the shipper owes an explanation as to how the cocaine had been shipped with sugar shipments bound for Sri Lanka through the transit port of Portugal, apparently the final destination for cocaine.

Since the detection of cocaine in the first shipment the sugar importer was taken into custody and is still in the remand prison and other importers are scared and extremely vulnerable, as they are clueless about the source that is responsible for the shipping of cocaine with the sugar shipments bound to Colombo. It appears that this cocaine is meant for drug cartel in Portugal. However, apparently due to possible time constraints, as it is quite normal for some ships to leave transit ports swiftly giving perpetrators no time to have cocaine removed in Portugal, the contraband has come to the port of Colombo.

It is observed that the process followed by Customs since then detailed examination carried outwith transfer of from one bag of sugar to another is unworkable as it causes tremendous hardship to the trade. Therefore we propose to take measures to transfer sugar containers secured with Customs bottle seal to importer storage facility and to de-stuff sugar under strict Customs supervision mayhe round the clock, with sniffer dogs employed to detect any narcoticsubstance packed with sugar if any.

“We earnestly request the DGC to put this sensible proposal into practice with immediate effect,as the sugar importers are faced with numerous problems, including inordinate delays in removing sugar shipments from the port within the specified three clear days, causing huge demurrage bills been raised by the Ports Authority,” Kodituwakku said.

However, this might cause a sugar shortage in the country if the prevailing situation is continued therefore the relevant authorities and the Sri Lanka customs must speed up its investigations and ensure that the local importers who were unknowingly linked to the phobia are safeguarded while the consignments are released while they were suitable for consumption.  

 

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