x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Border controls under fire over import of goods offensive to Islam

FNC told Ministry of Economy is responsible only after goods are imported.

ABU DHABI // The Minister of Economy has insisted his department is not to blame for religiously offensive toys being imported, despite repeated accusations from members of the FNC.

Mohammed Al Ameri told Sultan Al Mansouri, the minister, items such as toy guns that "voiced" insults about the Prophet Mohammed's wife Aisha, which were found on sale in Dibba last year, should be stopped at the border.

Mr Al Ameri said harmful food products also needed to be stopped from entering the country.

He cited recent reports of 18 children eating what they thought were sweets bought from local stores in Umm Al Quwain, but which contained nicotine and other "harmful chemicals".

Mr Al Mansouri said the responsibility lay with Customs officials, not his department. He said there were no ministry officials at the borders.

Mr Al Ameri answered that he had been very careful in directing his question.

"When I drafted this question I was eager to find out who to send it to," he said. "In all my research, I found the main party concerned was the Ministry of Economy."

Mr Al Ameri was supported by the FNC legal adviser, Dr Hesham Fawzi.

"We found that the ministry is responsible for consumer rights and to ensure their safety," said Dr Fawzi. "The ministry would not only have enough information on this topic but also is involved legally."

Mr Al Mansouri argued: "This is related to the concerned authority. If it is related to medicine, then it would be the Ministry of Health; if it is related to publications, then it would be the National Media Council."

Although there are no federal laws covering the sale of sweets containing nicotine, the Ministry of Health had said they were not sold in markets. But some still made their way into the country.

Mr Al Mansouri added any concerns over imported food or farming would concern the Ministry of Environment.

He said the question was clear and so was his answer.

"It [the question] stated what are the procedures made to stop these products from going in," Mr Al Mansouri said. "First it goes through Customs.

"I have nothing against answering the question but the ministry is only involved in supervising these products in the country.

"The [legal] adviser needs to be easier on us. This has nothing to do with us.

"But after it is in the country, then the ministry comes in and can recall the products if necessary."

The Speaker, Mohammed Al Murr, repeated the second part of Mr Al Ameri's question, asking what steps the ministry was taking to stop the products reaching stores. The minister did not give a response.

Mr Al Ameri concluded by asking Mr Al Mansouri to clarify who was responsible for the entry of the products to the country, only to be told that the council would be filled in at a later date.

The minister asked Mr Al Ameri to point out the products in question to help the ministry in its future response.

No further detail on when the response would be given or when discussions would continue.

Yesterday was the first time the minister had appeared in front of the FNC and he said the ministry was keen to co-operate fully with the council.

osalem@thenational.ae