Rescinding liquor gazette | Daily News

Rescinding liquor gazette

The decision by President Maithripala Sirisena to rescind the gazette allowing for an extension of liquor outlet opening hours and over- the-counter liquor purchasing by women and the employment of females at liquor shops will be welcomed by most while there will be others with a more liberal bent who would see nothing wrong in the exercise. This column has been supportive of Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s move to introduce a liberal liquor policy in this country, doing away with the hypocrisy practiced in this regard by all governments in deference to Maha Sangha and other clergy.

The minister had earlier spoken in favour of having liquor shops opened even on Poya days, since as is well known, liquor sales observed a spike on this day than on any other days where bootleggers had booming business. The minister also came in for heavy flak for reducing the taxes on soft liquor in his budget, by members of the Sangha and the Joint Opposition, on the grounds that this will induce non drinkers to take to the bottle. We also commended Minister Samaraweera for his way of seeing things as they are and his penchant for the unorthodox, regardless of the consequences.

However, permitting extra hours for liquor to be sold, coming as it did soon after the reduction on the prices of soft liquor, naturally has brought the members of the clergy on the war path once again. True, most of the comments we hear are politically motivated and made by monks who are Rajapaksa supporters. With local government elections looming, this also has given a potent weapon to the Joint Opposition to use against the government which fact may also not have been lost on the President. No less a personage than Mahinda Rajapaksa took up the issue of the liberal liquor policy adopted by the government, while addressing a local government election meeting supportive of the pohottuwa candidates in Kegalle. The former President accused the Yahapalanaya government of encouraging more and more people to consume liquor so that they may, in their inebriated state, forget the burdens heaped on them by the government and be oblivious to the attempts made to divide the country through a new constitution. He also blamed the government for going against the cultural norms of the country through the liberal liquor policy.

This is rich indeed coming from Rajapaksa who gave too hoots for our cultural values when he allowed night races to be held near the Dalada Maligawa disregarding the protests by the Maha Sangha. Local culture was also furthest from the mind of Mahinda Rajapaksa when he gave a red carpet welcome to Hindi matinee idol Salman Khan, who was brought down to bolster his Presidential Election campaign, while at the same time unleashing goons on a group of local artistes who were performing a roadshow in support of the Common Candidate.

The former President who is now taking a holier than thou stance on the government’s liberal liquor policy also stands accused for permitting liquor outlets and Wine Stores to be opened near schools and places of religious worship, while at the same time going ahead with is his much touted mathata titha programme, which, as one wag put it, became tithata matha, at the time.

Be that as it may, extending the opening hours of liquor shops is not going to increase the number of imbibers. The habitual drinker will only make his visit to the liquor shop that much earlier if the closing time is advanced following the Presidential decree. However permitting women to purchase liquor in the open may be objectionable to most with set ideas on the role of women and the cultural place accorded to women in Sri Lankan society. Of course, there will be those who may ask what the fuss is all about, what with women now treated on par with men in the matter of employment and in all spheres of activity with two Sri Lankan women even ascending to the leadership of this country.

It is time that Sri Lanka move with the world shedding its cloak of ignorance and hypocrisy on many things that are taken for granted in the developed world. True, there has to be sensitivity to the country’s cultural mores and ingrained values in our society. However, these should not be made impediments to progress. President Sirisena who hails from the rural outback and a strict adherent to local values and customs naturally would balk at Minister Samaraweera’s liberal liquor policy. He certainly would have been in an awkward position as a leader who is close to the Sangha community. Hence, his decision to stand firm in this regard is quite understandable. It would have been prudent had the minister consulted the President before taking this decision. Besides, rescinding a decision already taken by a minister would also look bad on the government as a whole and betray a lack of co-ordination. Especially so, since what we have today is a coalition government with one party holding a more liberal outlook and the other, more reticent in its approach. 


There are 5 Comments

I fully support your comments on this matter. This action of the president is foolish and a backward step. He tries to be popular but has not understood the harm he had done to the country as a whole.Where is equality for women?. This action amounts to oppression of women and violation of fundamental human rights as far as women are concerned and drifting the country into a very low state globally.

At times President MS is puritanical therefore bright ideas for the good of the country cannot be implemented. Most are of the opinion that Mangala Samaraweera should be the next president if there one to be.

Men and women have the same civil status and both are human with identical human rights. Denying women to purchase and serve alcohol is an infringement on their human rights. We have not come across any country that imposes such discriminating laws.

Sometimes those who advocate marketing liquor goes to absurd lengths as a civil right movement ..but the womens health group maintains that alcohol kills brain cells and it effects Women more men .Moreover due to the less body water and less body weight it affects them hard .Well womens rights group and educational authorities can carry out a campaign directly to save our sisters from this so called civil rights groups ..if the government wants to expand the economy with the sale of alcohol ..Buyer beware these days We cannot have a nanny state says most developed countries ..and they do have social issues with alcohol .

Option vary. Will you let your wife sister daughter mother work with alcohol bars tavern liquor store etc especially after dark late evening. Most family in lanka will not approve it. Tradition culture religion anxiety docial concern family disapproval etc


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