Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
If you are planning to travel via Singapore airport as a transit passenger, then be ware that any duty free liquour (or may be even perfume!) bought from Colombo International Airport Duty Free shops that are not placed in polythene bags and sealed will only be consigned to the dustbin next to the security scanning desk as Singaporeans are so strict about this regulation which unfortunately the Colombo based duty free shops are not aware of, or do not bother to advice the passengers.

The normal practice at the Colombo International airport is that they place in a ‘duty free ‘carrier bag. What I noticed on Christmas day at the transit security check point at Singapore airport was somewhat heart breaking. A passenger on his way to Australia had helped himself to some expensive Shivas Regal whiskey and other spirits happily and looking forward to celebrate Christmas in Australia. When he walked through the security scanning machine at the transit passenger area to be told by Singaporean airport officials that it was illegal and he could not be allowed to take the bottles one centimetre from where he was!

The innocent passenger tried to explain that he was unaware of this regulation and in fact the liquor was bought only from a duty-free shop inside an international airport (Colombo). But Singaporean officials had no sympathy on the passenger, not even thinking that it was Christmas day and forgetting Jesus Christ’s words of ‘Love thy neighbour’ and came hard on the passengers in a somewhat rude manner saying: “ Then you will know you can’t bring any liquor in this manner”. Further attempts in a gentlemanly manner to persuade the Singaporeans made only things worse with their somewhat high handed attitude that the Sri Lankan had no choice but to unscrew all the bottles and empty the contents into a waste bin right in front of their eyes, thus writing off a fair sum of dollars as out of pocket expenses at the very beginning of his trip to Australia.

Subsequently at the departure lounge when I discussed this matter with this passenger, he assured me that he would have handed over the bottles of Shivas Regal and Kahlua to the airport staff as a Christmas gesture if not for rude and arrogant attitude of them. But the cardinal point behind this saga is that it is up to Sri Lanka Airport Authorities to advise and educate the duty free shops at the Bandaranaike Airport about such regulations and abide by such regulations rather than just concentrating on their sales and ‘dumping’ everything into a ‘duty free’ carrier bag.

There are certain regulations in air travel today especially introduced after terrorism has raised its ugly head even during international flights. That is the reason why sharp instruments (including a pair of scissors) are not allowed to carry in hand luggage to the cabin. Even small bottles of perfume are restricted and allowed only in polythene bags. Food served with Steel cutlery has been withdrawn during in-flight meals. However, Colombo Singapore flight served steel knives with their lunch but when it came to Singapore Melbourne flight the steel knife had been withdrawn and replaced with a plastic knife with a little information on a card saying ‘ due to various international regulations’ the airline had to replace the metal knife with the plastic.

This goes to show how the international law varies from airport to airport and destination to destination. Therefore, it is high time that for the benefit of the future air travellers passing through Bandaranaike airport the staff at duty free shops are updated with the ever changing international regulations on air travel rather than concentrating only to sell their goods and collect their foreign exchange.