Colombo Telegraph

Ninety Percent Of Bars Owned By Politicos

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

The above, an actual caption of an article that appeared on January 29 on the online version of the Daily Mirror. Reading the piece I couldn’t but feel a kind of irritability if not a spontaneous reaction of ill-feeling, perhaps a bout of bitter nausea. What has politics come to in this country? Distribution of liquor licenses and ownership of bars revolving round politicos? The most feculent precedent a governing administration can ever set. 

Sure successive governments have been doing it but the overt religiosity of the current administration can set everything right. Rather than get into spasmodic flurry when pressured by environmental factors draft proper, effective policy to combat the scourge. What vice or drug menace are you trying to fight without firstly setting the right example. Deeds definitely speak much larger than words. Rhetoric is vacuous and action is conspicuous. Please let the hypocrisy come to a halt.

Irony of the message clear and all pervasive. Elected politicos having the dubious prerogative to own and be associated with the distribution and sale of harmful and addictive alcoholic beverages. Funnily enough a case of multi-dimensional ironies seem to characterize, contribute and control the alcohol industry of Sri Lanka. Ordinary folks seemingly on democratic overdose work hard to elect representatives. In return their elected politicos drench them with all kinds of intoxicants during election season. And on other occasions make them pay for it when their frail anatomies ravenously crave for a much needed stimulation after a hard day’s work. Its total subservience to a pernicious debasement controlled and operated by a democratically elected cabal.  Alcohol related mortality incidentally reaching epidemic levels.

President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated recently that he would implement the death penalty to drug offenders following examples set by other countries including the Philippines. “In the Philippines, the drug dealers are sent to the electric chair. India also gives death penalty to drug dealers. So does the United States. I too will do that,” Sirisena said. Great words but it does not carry much weight without setting examples and implementing policy sans fear or favor.

According to the story the Governor of the Sabaragamuwa Province Damma Dissanayake had apparently stated that out of the liquor bars opened countrywide, ninety percent belong to politicians. Dissanayake, who visited the Seevali Madhya Vidyalaya unannounced, in the midst of various programs coinciding with the Prevention of Narcotics Week, made this startling revelation. He had requested school children to present proposals, allegations regarding Narcotics Prevention Week. 

The irony is further conflated and coalesced when members of the medical profession supposed to save lives and set examples themselves act irresponsibly and contribute to the mayhem. Recently a female specialist doctor was involved in an accident at Boralesgamuwa in which an IP was killed, she was under the influence of liquor at the time. The breathalyzer test conducted by the Police following the accident had proved positive. More than 80 milligrams of liquor was found to be in her blood stream. The doctor had been attending a party prior to the accident. 

One of the students according to the article had apparently said that it was an issue when the Government was conducting awareness programs but continued to issue licenses to politicians to open and maintain liquor outlets. What a smart question? This is another irony. Another student had queried that ignoring orders made by the Executive of the country was in essence assisting the spread of drugs. He had also questioned why this Executive Power was not used to control the menace, another irony.

Global research indicate that many adolescents start to drink at a very young age. People who reported starting to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to also report meeting the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. In fact, new research in the United States show that the serious drinking problems (including what is called alcoholism) typically associated with middle age actually begin to appear much earlier, during young adulthood and even adolescence.

In reply to the above questions the Governor had apparently said that if politicians stopped the sale of liquor, 90 % of these liquor outlets could be closed. He said that he believed the direct and indirect interference by the political authorities on the liquor sale business should be stopped forthwith. “The income derived from the sale of liquor is negligible when compared with the costs involved in solving the social and cultural issues that have resulted. This expenditure is creating a severe dent in economic, social, cultural and moral activities that is having a severe impact on the development of the country,” he said.

We have an acknowledgement here. A clear and realistic assessment of the whole sordid affair. Now will appropriate, meaningful action follow? This is the one billion dollar question? Most probably not. This is not an attitude of cynicism or indifference but a fairly deep-rooted and insightful understanding of Sri Lankan politics and politicians. Even if a generation is destroyed these hideous policies will continue to remain and I don’t know why.

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