COLOMBO: Sri Lanka wants to modernise its 200 year old customs law to become a global trading hub, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, though customs officers had earlier expressed concerns. “The prevailing Customs legislation is almost 200 years old, based on the 1869 Customs Ordinance and following numerous amendments is now a complex and yet archaic law, that has not kept up with the developments of modern global trade,” Samaraweera was quoted as saying at a groundbreaking ceremony to build a container scanning facility at Colombo port. “This government is committed to making Sri Lanka a global trading hub – and we cannot achieve that with the key trade facilitation agency having nearly 200-year-old legislation. “One of my key objectives as the Minister of Finance is to ensure that all our agencies work within a state of the art legislative framework. “In fact, we are in the process of updating many of the archaic laws in other areas as well.”
The laws dating back from the British time give extensive powers to customs officers to search and confiscation. Customs superintends have also resisted orders from above for ad hoc clearing of goods without getting transferred. Sri Lanka’s high customs duties and protectionism however has led to undervaluation of goods and smuggling and corruption. Last year customs officers resorted to trade union action after a decision to repeal the customs ordinance was announced, saying a new law was being drafted to weaken customs officers.