We are inundated with news of people caught smuggling alcohol, tobacco and fuel (ATF) on an almost daily basis.
A cursory review at the profile of the offenders indicate that they are our own Bruneian Malay Muslim people, a few related to us, usually unemployed or self-employed, middle-aged and heads of family, some are bread winners, a few single parents, even grandparents.
Many end up in jail due to their inability to pay the stiff fines imposed for smuggling cigarettes or alcohol or fuel, or both or all of these items.
Is it really our intention to populate our prisons with our own Brunei Malay Muslim brethren? In view of the perceived size of the problem, maybe it is time to give the issue of ATF smuggling our wholehearted national attention.
Potential solutions to the ATF smuggling problem need to be identified and discussed publicly.
One possible solution is to set up a specific agency to deal with ATF smuggling, similar to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The ATF Bureau should focus on conducting in-depth research on ATF smuggling and identify the root causes and recommend solutions including legislation and other preventive measures.
ATF Bureau should also provide counselling services for offenders and their families and educating the public and youngsters on the issue.
A review on the types and levels of punishments for offenders should also be done.
At present, the penalties for tobacco smuggling seem excessive when compared to alcohol and fuel smuggling.
Other forms of penalties should be considered eg community service for offenders rather than jail sentences, hence making offenders productive and less of a burden on our prisons and their families.
The setting up of a dedicated ATF agency will also open up employment opportunities for our graduates from UBD, UNISSA and other job seekers.