By P. Soma Palan –
I refer to two front page headlined reports in the Daily Mirror of 17th January:
a) “ If men can manage and work in Bars, so can women”, a statement by the Minister of Regional Development, Mr. Sarath Fonseka
b) “ Gazette withdrawn to respect Culture”, a statement by the Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe regarding opening and closing times for Liquor Shops, and another earlier report,
c) “Extension of the closing time of Liquor Shops and Sale of liquor is against our Culture and values,” by the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero.
The statements by the Minister at (a) above in support of women working in liquor Bars and the extension of the closing time of liquor bars to 10 p.m. are nullified by the withdrawal of the Gazette notification ,by the Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. The statements of the two Ministers contradict each other. I will confine myself to this issue only, although there are several issues where the Government had made resolute decisions and then revoked them.
This recurring practice of the Government taking policy decisions and passing Regulations/laws and then backtracking, revoking or revising them is an habitual feature of this Government. This exposes the infirmity and lack of resolve and conviction of the Government on several matters.
Aren’t these Policy decisions and actions to be taken are discussed and approved by the Cabinet of Minister, in the first instance, prior to notification by the Gazette. It is only later it is discovered that such decisions/actions are not in accord with our culture and values. Isn’t this belated invocation of national culture and values, political hypocrisy to show the people their concerned commitment to national culture and values?
This ubiquitous verbal chant of our national culture and values, both by the Politicians and the Religious fraternity, sounds hollow, if our politicians and religious leaders take a walk in our streets ,to see at first hand the low level of our culture and values paraded, not only by the common man but even by those who are supposed to be educated and cultured. I would dare to say that 90% of them are uncultured and uncivilized. The conduct and behavior of the motley crowd of pedestrians, all kinds of motorists, reflect the poor standard of our national culture and values. As a daily walker of the streets, I can say this with certainty and conviction. The day culture, values, civility are established on our streets and other public places, we can proudly proclaim of our national culture and values. Until then, it is nothing but sheer hypocrisy of our politicians and religious monks.
The statement of Minister Sarath Fonseka that “if men can work and manage bars, so can women” is absolutely correct. Isn’t prohibiting women to work in liquor bars discriminatory and a violation of a Fundamental democratic right? This is against our national culture and values, the politicians and our religious leaders say. But they have no qualms about our women working as House Maids in Middle East countries in menial positions, including the washing and cleaning of the toilets of the Sheiks. Only God knows whether they are strictly House maids doing household work or otherwise. Here money counts more than our national culture and values. Without the inflow of their Dollar remittances, our economy will collapse. Isn’t this utter hypocrisy of our Political and Religious leaders parroting about our national culture and values with an air of superiority, as if the cultures and values of other countries are degrading.
Ven. Atureliye Rathana Thero declared that the extension of the closing time of liquor Shops to 10 p.m is against our culture and values. It seems, it is in deference to this opinion of the Buddhist monk, the Minister Mahinda Samarsinghe had withdrawn the Gazette Notification, extending the closing time of liquor sale outlets, to respect our national culture and values, while retaining the sale till 8 p.m. There is a contradiction in the logic of reasoning. This means the sale of liquor between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m is in accordance with our national culture and values and it is acceptable. Isn’t this a mockery of the concept of morality? Concepts of morals, virtue and goodness are absolute concepts irrespective of time, place and person. If something is immoral, debased and of low culture and values after 8 p.m, how can it be moral, good and acceptable culture before 8 p.m? Is Morals, culture and values determined by chronology of time? Are moral values relative to time and mutable? On the other hand, if manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks is against our national culture and values, it is nothing but logical to ban it without our political and religious leaders being hypocritical, and pretending to be paragons of our national culture and values. Banning liquor is in accord with the Buddhist precept on alcohol. Where is the religious and moral courage to do so. Here too, money/revenue takes precedence over much bragged about national culture and values. The hypocrisy of our political and religious leaders is nakedly revealed. The reality is, as a Nation, we are more degenerate than moral, religious and cultured.
The first priority, if our national culture and values are to be conserved and promoted, is for our political leaders cleansing themselves of corruption and bribery, than being obsessed in fixing auspicious times for sale of liquor, and arrogating to themselves the moral authority to determine which jobs are good for our women and which are not.
It is high time, both our Political and Religious leaders shed their hypocrisy and jettison obscurantist views on, morals ,culture and values and concentrate on the secular development of the country.