Who gave the “Open Sesame” order, the magical phrase of the Mediterranean folk tale of “Ali Baba and Forty Thieves”, a Antoine Galland’s version of “One Thousand And One Nights”, when the Prez and the Prime Minister were away from the country, to reopen Liquor Bars? It is a Billion Dollar question very puzzling and intriguing! When the country is in the midst of a pandemic lock down, when viruses are having a field day. The health sector is also ailing and the frontline workers including Doctors have sacrificed their lives, in their struggle to save the life of patients and the marauding virus on its rampage has not spared the Health Department computers too, to obliterate the vital procurement data from the illiterate masses and that has gone viral.
Excise Commissioner General who has the power to authorise open and closure is blissfully unaware who gave the orders!! A very strange and sorry state of affairs indeed. Eureka the Prez during the “Yahapalana” regime has found the big brain behind the order, “Ghost”! May be the genie inside the good spirits of the bottle, when the liquor shop owner rubbed the Allauddin’s Lamp fulfilled his wish to open the bar, fortunately he didn’t find Mujahiddin’s lamp, in which event he would have been blasted into bits!!!
The media is supposed to have said the Finance Minister under whose purview the Excise Department functions has stated the State lost a colossal sum of revenue due to the state coffer. At the same time illicit hooch manufactures and moonshiners are making hay while the sunshines in the still of the night. The bootleggers are bleeding the economy, the trend is very alarming and stressed the need to re-open the bars and reboot the economy. His message to media was not explicit instead a tacit approval which was taken for granted by the media men which was corroborated by the Health Minister.
In Sri Lanka no one has the courage to stand upright and accept responsibility on any matters be it Ministers or Departmental heads. I have a hunch they have spinal problems in the lumbar region. The “Blame Game” shifting their responsibilities and finding a scapegoat to escape, pulling wool over the eyes of the public and fleecing them. The Baa Baa Black sheeps continue to remain in power with impunity.
In one way the media mafia also stands responsible for the much controversial opening by excessive coverage deliberately targeted to tarnish the image of state and and the subsequent closure of the bars in double quick time. A Media Analyst young Tharindu Uduwaragedara in his frank honest unbiased commentary in the Satahan Radio on 21-8-321 expressed his view on the opening of retail liquor outlets which sounds very plausible. The pertinent link attached below which is self explanatory.
I am of the view as he said we are still sticking to the Victorian concepts imparted by the colonial imperialists, locally manufactured liquor, whiskey, Brandy, Rum, Gin and other allied group are classified as foreign liquor for the purpose of the Excise Ordinance. (Rata Beema Saapuwa) Foreign Liquor Retail Outlet (FLRO) though the age to purchase liquor from the outlet of adults is 21 years, your franchise to exercise your vote is 18 years, it is a taboo by women to possess liquor in public places such laws are outdated as such needs amendment.
When something is forbidden it is the natural tendency to go for it at any cost, that is the human tendency. Even the first ever human in the universe Adam is not an exception to yield to the temptation. If diamonds are found like pebbles on the seashore, no one will stoop to pick it up. Absence of alcohol or abstinence makes the heart to grow fonder. It was indeed a good stance, if the liquor retail outlets remained open uninterrupted at the outset throughout, there wouldn’t have been any scarcity and the demand to this extent wouldn’t have occurred. If at all it was reopened should have been allowed to continue instead of again putting the shutters down. The media guys blew the bubble out of proportion to burst it.
This is the story of a guy who went out on 20th September to buy essentials found the liquor shop opened and his craving for the scarce stuff made him to go for it, he busted his money on booze and the Humpty Dumpty with an empty pocket returned home staggering and had a great fall flat on the road. Passers by never did heed to his frantic calls. Then on his own the guy got up and said; when the economy falls we tipplers have to lend a helping hand to prop up the economy and fill the empty chest when we fall there are none to help us. Sagging economy and staggering cost!!!
Ever since the Excise Department was established, leading politicians from Sir Baron was against liquor barons revolting against colonial masters spearheading the temperance movements advocating abstinence of alcohol. The irony of it is some of those who oppose the liquor policy are the very descendants of renters who amassed a fortune in the liquor trade. It is not a secret every liquor baron has a nexus to a powerful politico whatever the regime for protection which is mutual and symbiotic.
Liberalising of the liquor policy and making it available can counter the illicit liquor trade but at an affordable price within the reach of an average wage earner, is a must. The financial pundits in ivory towers who are the custodians of the Treasury should slash the excise levy which will on the other hand will be a deterrent on the illicit manufactures who will on their own abandon their trade which otherwise is lucrative. The legitimate manufacturers will in turn increase their consumer clientele which will offset the decline by slashing taxes. It is a relative factor. The Financial wizards conveniently call alcohol and tobacco tax as “Sin Tax” but burn their midnight oil and never fail to come out with annual midnight gazette notification to increase the so called tax that is coughed by out to the chest by smokers and tipplers.
We are a nation of Lotus eaters intoxicated by the lotus buds expecting a “Viyathmaga” after experiencing “Dharmishta” of JRJ, eradication of “Doosbana Beeshana” by Chandrika, “Poverty Alleviation” by RP, and “Yahapalana” by Ranil who ran ill. Pandemic and variants that have engulfed the country and are impeding our progress to reach the promised, expected El Dorado of the present regime. Citizen Perera under the jackboot for a reboot is echoing the sentiments “Apata Puthe Magak Nathe”!!