I REFER to the report “Snuffing out the smugglers” (Sunday Star, April 9) which highlighted the newly-appointed Customs director Datuk Subromaniam Tholasy’s strong determination to tackle smuggling activities and strengthen integrity among his men.
Subromaniam, who took over the post on March 24, has expressed his resolution to plug all the loopholes that could lead to corruption and leakages in tax collection.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Subromaniam on his efforts to curb smuggling activities that have caused the country billions of ringgit in tax losses.
He also walks his talk. His department recently confiscated three containers of illicit cigarettes in Port Klang, that would have cost an estimated RM18mil in duties.
I hope that the Customs Department would intensify its collaboration with other enforcement agencies to curb smuggling activities through the main seaports and along the coastal areas.
Based on media reports, smugglers also bring in contraband items such as illicit cigarettes using small boats or “bot pancung”.
It will be an uphill task for the Customs Department to monitor more than 6,000km stretch of our shoreline. It should instead utilise the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), which involves other enforcement agencies such as the police, Immigration Department, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Armed Forces.
Smugglers have become more creative and the Customs Department must strengthen cooperation with its regional counterparts and invest in the latest technology, including installing modern scanners at the entry points.
The NBOS approach must be expanded further to also include courier companies to help check thousands of parcels that come into the country through online shopping.
The Customs Department, together with other enforcement agencies and courier companies, must also prepare for the anticipated surge in parcel shipments with the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) recently. They should implement an integrated and centralised system and use the latest technology to check all the parcels without jeopardising the speed of shipments.
At the same time, other law enforcement agencies must also intensify security at DFTZ and our borders. They should conduct a stringent check to prevent illegal items or their parts, including firearms, from being smuggled in.
The new director-general must also focus on strengthening integrity among Customs officers and men and take stern action against those who are involved in corruption.
Only when it is purged of corrupt personnel will its credibility be reinforced and public confidence be strengthened.
It has been proven in many instances that law enforcers accept bribes mainly because he or she is greedy and was presented with opportunities to commit corrupt practices.
Officers involved in corrupt practice are mostly those in charge of law enforcement and to eradicate such practices. As such the department should have an internal control system which can detect irregularities.
Subromaniam should ensure continuous efforts to instil integrity and ethical values so that Customs officers will not commit corrupt practices under whatever circumstances.
Smugglers will always find ways to bribe or beat the enforcement department. The latter must always stay one step ahead of the culprits and hold fast to the basic principle of integrity and ethical values which are very vital to the department.
In his interview (Sunday Star, April 23) Subromaniam also emphasised that integrity is his top most priority, adding that they cannot be in denial. If that is his commitment he should be given the fullest support to realise a noble and much-needed goal.
The new Director General should also focus on making the Customs Department more people-friendly, be more consultative and ever ready to engage tax payers and the industries to find solutions to their problems.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE