Get Troubled with Parking Tickets in New York
The parking fine dues to be borne by the Indonesian government total US$725,000
VIVAnews – As if Indonesia’s debts are not many enough, now the government has more debt to repay and the amount is quite large. It is not the debt for the betterment of the people’s welfare or financing small-sized enterprises, but rather the parking fine debt of the diplomats.
The debt’s amount is US$725,000, equivalent to Rp6.5 billion. The amount of Indonesia’s debt in this matter is the third largest after Egypt, with fines totaling US$1.9 million (Rp17 billion) and Nigeria US$1 million (Rp8.9 billion).
The report of the debt was issued by New York City Finance Department, as reported by Reuters. According to the financial report, the diplomats’ debt contributed a large amount to the total parking fine debt, totaling US$16.7 million (Rp150 billion).
Not only in New York, the U.S. government will also benefit from the parking fines of foreign diplomats in the capital Washington DC.
Washington DC’s local government also listed the countries of diplomats who owed the highest. According to the Washington government’s data, as quoted by ABC News, Russia tops the list in the highest parking fine debt which amounted to US$27,200 out of 892 parking tickets. Afghanistan was reported owing parking fine amounting to US$2,835 and Iraq US$8,110.
The country having the smallest debt out of all the parking fine debtors in Washington DC is the Vatican, with only US$25 for one ticket. Why the large amount?
According to Washington’s government, the diplomats’ debt in 1970 only came at US$340.037. However, according to the local stipulation, every parking fine unpaid within 30 days will be doubled.
Currently 7,611 parking fine tickets are not yet paid by diplomats in Washington. Most of these are not paid for years, so the amount swelled without being noticed. It is likely that the similar stipulation will also apply to New York, a home for 289 diplomats including Indonesian.
The U.S. Department of State issued in 1993 a diplomatic note no. 94-333 to all embassies in Washington DC. The content was if the debts are not paid within a year, the U.S. government will not issue diplomatic licences anymore for the respective country.
The diplomatic note was a kind of warning. Yet, it was disregarded. The second diplomatic note was sent by the U.S. Foreign Ministry in 2004 to embassies and consulates in Washington and New York. But, as the first note, the second one was also ignored.
The U.S. government did not follow up the matter and the diplomatic licences procurement to foreign representatives did not stop. The Foreign Ministry then issued a notification saying that the Foreign Ministry Foreign Mission Office reminded representatives having obligations to comply to the international law must also comply to local rules, including paying parking tickets, said U.S. Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
Congressmen both in Washington and New York seemed furious. The money that should have come to their state coffer, did not come. They could not do anything either, as the foreign diplomat permit is only issued by the central government.
Eventually, early this year the Congressman Michael Grimm introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on countries with diplomats who fail to pay parking fines in New York City. Yet, the completed bill has not been passed by the local committee.
Indonesia Refuses to Pay
RI Foreign Ministry, the aegis of Indonesian embassy and consulate general in New York and Washington, stated it will not pay the fines. This was conveyed by RI Deputy Foreign Minister Triyono Wibowo, Tuesday.
He said that the problem is not an old problem that diplomats in New York always undergo. He explained that the parking issue is not the first time, but had came to the surface in the 1980s. “We will not pay because this is an old problem. Why bringing it up now as it already started in the ‘80s,” said Triyono.
“Perhaps now the New York government is having financial problem, so it is looking for extra income,” he went on.
Triyono said that this problem continued occurring as the New York government cannot yet provide sufficient parking space for foreign representatives. Not only Indonesian diplomats, he explained, but other countries’ diplomats in New York also complain about the same matter.
Triyono insisted that the government is not guilty. He asked the general public and the media in Indonesia not to call attention to it. “In New York, there is something called hospitality committee. Let them take care of it. We in Indonesia should not make a fuss,” he said.
A foreign country’s representative or diplomat has diplomatic immunity as regulated in 1961 Vienna Convention. One of the forms is the exemption from any kinds of levy and tax, either national-level, regional tax or other fees. This was also conveyed by former RI vice president Jusuf Kalla.
According to him, diplomats need not deal with fees as they are exempted from them. He said that such dues for diplomats of many countries are not paid. “As they are diplomats, they don’t violate the rule,” he said.
However, this was disputed by Grimm. He said there was no such thing as 'diplomatic immunity' from paying parking tickets.
"If you get a ticket in NYC, you have to pay it. No exceptions. New York City's budget is tight enough as it is, and foreign diplomats do not deserve a free pass at the expense of New York City taxpayers," said Grimm.
Translated by Indah Lestari
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