Rein in alcoholism
That an overwhelming proportion of crime in Sri Lanka
has been attributed to liquor consumption, no doubt is cause for
According to our front page story yesterday quoting the
Police Narcotics Bureau, over 90 percent of the crimes
investigated by Police are directly or indirectly linked to
liquor consumption or drugs.
Moonshine or kasippu as it is popularly known is said to be
the most sought after brew particularly among the low income
It is also revealed that over 10 percent of males who are
daily drinkers are said to be spending more on alcohol than
Sri Lanka at one time was right up there among the countries
with the highest number of boozers. But the Presidentís Mathata
Titha program succeeded in salvaging us somewhat from this
According to statistics, liquor sales dropped drastically
after 2006 indicative of the effectiveness of the program. But
alas these statistics have failed to account for the imbiber of
illicit liquor which from all indications is still a flourishing
industry leading to the rise in the crime rate.
We have been arguing in these columns before that the
Government should go all out to stamp out the illicit liquor
industry which today has not only contributed to the rise in
crime but also become a major social problem.
True, the Mathata Titha program has succeeded in great
measure in curbing alcohol consumption by our youth and to great
extent the conventional drinker through its aggressive campaign
and clear cut message.
But all these will be in vain if steps are not taken to rein
in the kasippu addict among the indigent community who is hooked
to the deadly brew. It is these segments who are more prone to
crimes given their backgrounds and their socio - economic
condition. Hence a wholly different approach is needed to deal
with this segment.
It is of course hoping much to expect them to give up the
habit. The solution lies therefore in keeping the brew out of
reach of these addicts by killing the moonshine industry.
To begin with, the Government should take all steps to break
the backbone of the illicit liquor industry.By this we mean
destroying its structure and apparatus and severing all its
widespread tentacles. Today, it is common knowledge that there
is a nexus between the politician, the Police and the kasippu
The latter more often than not is called upon to provide
muscle power for the politicians at election time and the
politician is beholden to such undesirables. It is also
well-known that kasippu mudalali come forward to swell the
campaign coffers of the politician at election time. He is thus
allowed free rein in his kingdom and the police are ordered to
look the other way.
It is also well-known that the police themselves are lax in
bringing to book these kasippu mudalalis both due to political
pressure and also its own involvement in the racket.
In some areas especially in the coastal belt, the Police has
a big stake in the kasippu business and turns a Nelsonian eye to
complaints. Hence as long as this status quo operates, the
illicit liquor industry is bound to thrive creating new addicts
resulting in more crime while undoing all the good work so far
carried out under the Mathata Titha program.
Thus nothing short of an all out war against the illicit
liquor industry would suffice if the Mathata Titha program is
not to be derailed.
The President is on record saying that in the same way he won
the war against terrorism he would also win the war against
drugs and alcoholism.
The best way to ensure this is by coming down hard on the
illicit liquor trade in the country. Being in the informal
sector there will be no official statistics to show the
magnitude of its harm and damage to society.
It is not only the main contributor to the rise in crime but
also is a huge drain on the countryís health budget in the
treatment of alcohol related diseases. But the most telling
damage is to the countryís moral fabric not to mention the
degeneration of a section of out society due to the evils of
Sri Lanka which is emerging from three decades of war and set
on the path of development and progress can ill afford to have a
large proportion of non productive citizens due to alcoholism or
drug adduction. It also cannot allow a rising crime rate in the
country due to alcoholism now that the country is about to
savour the fruits of peace.
True, alcoholism is a social problem and there is no
gainsaying that the root causes should be tackled such as the
elimination of poverty and social inequality.
But if this evil is not fought in earnest the problem can
only snowball with more and more addicts among the young adding
to the army of alcoholics negating any attempt by the Government
to address the problem from its social aspect.
The Government should ponder this whole issue seriously if
only to ensure its Mathata Titha program is not undermined by a
booming illicit liquor industry which threatens to eat into the
vitals of the nation.