Welcome boost to Mathata Thitha
The overall decline in liquor consumption in the
country as reported in our front page yesterday is certainly an
encouraging trend which it is hoped would be maintained, as
studies have shown liquor addiction to be the primary reason for
most of the crime and social problems in our midst.
Not so long ago Sri Lanka was named at the top among the
countries with the largest amount of boozers. While the treasury
coffers filled by way of excise revenue no proper attempt was
made to assess the social and economic cost to the country as
result of the fall out of rampant alcoholism.
Studies had shown liquor addiction to be chiefly responsible
for domestic violence, crime and also suicides in the country.
Liquor addiction also had a symbiotic relation with poverty and
moral degradation. One study showed that family breadwinners
spend as much as one third of their monthly income on liquor.
This in a country which witnesses the vibrant practice of all
religions which preaches taboo against alcohol.
While the Treasury earned revenue by way of enhanced excise
duties due to increase liquor consumption, the drain on the
Health budget to treat alcohol related diseases more than wiped
out any advantage. On the contrary it resulted in much damage
caused to the country's social fabric due to a staggering
increase in alcoholism which also negatively impacted on the
It is therefore to the credit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa
that the Mathata Thitha programme was launched to put a halt to
this dangerous trend taking into account the overall damage
caused to society at large. The programme was taken to far flung
villages where liquor addiction was at its most acute especially
illicit liquor that was most injurious to health.
It was observed that entire communities were caught up in the
grip of this vice which in turn caused disruption to the even
tenor of domestic life and family unity not to mention the drain
on the family economy.
That alcohol consumption has dropped by 2.6 per cent during
the three years since the programme was set in motion speaks
strongly for its efficacy and the response of the people to the
message contained therein.
Not all measures taken by the President in this regard went
down well with certain sections. For instance the black out on
smoking and drinking scenes from the Television screen were
frowned upon by many. But the results show that these measures
have been vindicated and justified. More than anything it had
served the purpose of shielding young impressionable minds from
There is of course much to done before further inroads are
made into the drinking habit. There has to be coordinated effort
between the authorities, religious leaders and civil society
organisations to tackle the issue head on. Alas, there is less
and less spoken on the subject by religious leaders today who
sadly have drifted into dabble in other enterprises which are
outside their calling.
A more concerted and vocal effort by our religious leaders
should help arrest the evil to a great extent especially in the
rural areas where illicit liquor thrives.
A programme should be started to din the message on the evil
of alcohol from school level so that the impact would last into
While the Government could be happy about the decline in
alcohol consumption it would no doubt be concerned at the
expansion of the illicit liquor industry.
According to our report the Excise Department had carried out
50,000 raids this year (from January to November) on illicit
liquor distilleries. Today it is no secret that illicit liquor
or moonshine is a booming industry most often carried out with
the blessings of politicians.
In a previous editorial we commented that this industry will
continue to thrive so long as the nexus between the politicians,
the police and underworld is not severed. The trend shows an
increase in illicit liquor consumption.
It is incumbent therefore on the authorities to act without
fear or favour in this regard if we are to control this menace.
The danger posed by letting this industry to flourish was
apparent by the recent death of over 40 persons who were
hospitalised after consuming the deadly brew.
The authorities should give a free hand to the law
enforcement to go all out to dismantle the apparatus and the
distribution networks of the illicit liquor industry. There must
be no half measures on this score. The authorities should resist
all pressures that stand in the way of this exercise. All
impediments should be removed so as to give full force of the
Mathata Thitha programme.