Indonesian diplomats owe US$750,000 in New York parking fines

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - It may not be the biggest nor have the most diplomats, but Indonesia's consulate in New York has managed to beat out almost all other embassies and diplomatic missions in the Big Apple in the number of parking tickets it has wracked up.

The New York City administration announced last Friday that Indonesia was number three on its list of countries with unpaid parking tickets, with about US$750,000 in unpaid fines.

The city's department of finance said that unpaid tickets totaled US$16.7 million through the end of July. Egypt topped the list with US$1.9 million in unpaid tickets, followed by Nigeria with about US$1 million, Reuters reported from New York.

Indonesia may have to pay more after this week as the countries send more diplomats to the city for the year's UN biggest gathering.

Lawmakers and activists have lambasted the Foreign Ministry, saying that New York City's announcement is an embarrassment, and quickly questioned how the Foreign Ministry could have incurred such high fines.

"It has embarrassed us. We don't understand how we could have gotten such high fines. We could have paid them because the money for the Foreign Ministry has always been channeled on time," House of Representatives' Commission I member TB Hasanuddin said over the weekend.

Meanwhile, University of Indonesia international law expert Hikmahanto Juwana asked the Indonesian ambassador to the UN to tell his staff to be more disciplined and to follow the city's parking rules.

He urged the mayor of New York City and the UN to provide parking lots for diplomats to avoid similar problems in the future.

"Probably, Indonesian diplomats want to use their diplomatic immunity in the case. But all in all, our diplomats have to follow the parking rules," he said.

New York City is home to 289 foreign missions and consulates. The diplomats' tickets were issued for safety violations, including blocking fire hydrants.

US congressmen Michael Grimm, Peter King and Edolphus Towns have introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on countries with diplomats who fail to pay parking fines in New York City.

"There's no such thing as 'diplomatic immunity' from paying parking tickets," Grimm said when the legislation was introduced in May.

"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."

The US legislation asks that "whenever a foreign country owes New York City parking fines as of Sept. 15 of each year, the US Secretary of State shall deny the renewal of diplomatic license plates, withhold any obligated funds to that nation, and reappropriate any of the obligated foreign aid funds for the amount outstanding."

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