Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to
the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to
appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.
How feasible is the Law on Alcohol and Tobacco?
Your ‘Opinion” on 10th August on “The need to re-think taxation policy in the
face of increasing use of illicit liquor” was an extraordinarily sensible,
well-written article that should persuade our President to change a losing game
– if he reads it.
I am enclosing the substance of a letter I that wrote to him in January, 2006 in
connection with the proposed Law on Alcohol and Tobacco . It does not require
much intelligence or imagination to realise that the consequences of that Bill
if it is enacted would be:
1. There would be a huge reduction in the excise revenue collected from the sale
of legitimate drinks such as arrack.
2. There would be a vast increase in the consumption of illicit liquor with no
increase whatsoever in the collection of excise revenue.
3. There would be an increase in illness and death through increased consumption
of kassippu that is known to be poisonous. Those affected would be the poor.
4. There would be a huge increase in the wealth of kassippu mudalalis.
5. There would result an increase in the corruption of politicians and
6. There would be an increase in crime and lawlessness.
7. There would be no perceptible reduction in drinking by young adults.
Surely these are reasons enough for scrapping the Bill? What the government
should be concentrating on is an all-out attack on the Kassippu trade that is
corrupting our society. No President has had the initiative or courage to do
There are other sensible steps that can be taken to discourage drinking by young
adults. That is a separate subject that should be gone into in depth. A
Commission could be appointed with that as its main object. This Commission
should consist of sensible members of the private and public sectors,
professionals and academia. It should be borne in mind that drinking in
moderation is not harmful to the health. Smoking is.”
It is too late to expect a reversal of that law that has had all the
consequences that I predicted. However we have to bear in mind that at the time
the NATA (National Authority on Alcohol and Tobacco) Law was passed the
President was in thrall to the JVP and JHU, the key proponents of the law.
Today, the President is in a position to acknowledge that those two parties were
not expert in Economics or even clear thinking.
All that that Law has achieved is that the Kassippu Industry is stronger than
ever; and corruption is at an all-time high. Government continues to lose huge
sums in both income tax and excise duty as a consequence of the decline in the
sale of lawful liquor. In addition, medical expenses on the treatment of those
who have been poisoned by ingesting kassippu have increased. I can safely make
that claim without knowing the actual figures because it stands to reason. When
people cannot afford arrack or gin they buy kassippu. They do not give up
drinking as the ingenuous Do-Gooders behind the NATA Law fondly imagine. The
government should analyse the expenditure on alcohol related medical cases which
they could easily establish are due to consumption of kassippu, and not “Old
Reserve Arrack or Mendis Special”. In analysing matters such as this one has to
be hard-headed and put aside all pre-conceived notions.
The government should have the courage to experiment with a reduction in excise
duties on alcohol, and observe the consequences. I can safely predict that the
over-all revenue from the alcohol industry will increase as did income tax when
the government many years ago reduced the rates of income tax. Good economists
like Dr P.B.Jayasundera and Dr Saman Kelegama would understand this.
The President must show the country that he is an intelligent, courageous man
who is prepared to re-think any policy in changed circumstances. Circumstances
Charitha P de Silva
Misconceptions about slaughtering animals
With reference to the well known Senior (Retired) Consultant Cardiologist Dr. D.
P. Athukorale of Horton Place, Colombo 7, who for some reason now prefers to
sign off as D.P.A. sometimes and at other times just D. P. Athukorale, – whom my
father-in-law consults - and refers to the equally famous Consultant
Opthalmologist Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai as the Muslim lady, - whom my sister
consults - in his letter to the newspapers on the above subject, has requested
for clarifications. As far as I know, this Muslim lady not only contributes to
the 3 papers mentioned by the Cardiologist, but also profusely writes to The
Nation, The Sunday Leader, Morning Leader and other leading Tamil newspapers
published in Sri Lanka. She also very actively participates in the web forums
online. She also conducts Radio Talks / Thoughts for the day on SLBC, both
English and Tamil Service. Additionally, she goes as a Guest Lecturer to schools
and other institutions / associations. And for the information of the doctor and
other readers, she is the Co-ordinator of Al Muslimaat, an association of Muslim
women and girls, a big time social service organisation.
After a bit of digressing, let me now, with reference to the topic under
reference, quote from the authentic traditions of the Prophet, an Islamic
source, to clear any doubts the cardiologist of repute has, regarding the
consumption of meat by our Prophet.(pbuh).
Here is one of the many traditions, narrated by Ja’far bin ‘Amr bin Umaiya (Ral),
to show that the Prophet consumed meat, about which the doctor is keen to know.
My father said, “I saw Allah’s Apostle eating a piece of meat from the shoulder
of a sheep and he was called for the prayer. He stood up, put down the knife and
prayed but did not perform ablution.’’
Another tradition, for doctor’s perusal, to establish that the Prophet was
served meat, is the one narrated by Anas (Ral), a companion of the Prophet.(pbuh)
Some meat was presented to the Prophet (pbuh) and it had been given to Barira
(the freed slave-girl of Aisha) in charity. He said, “This meat is a thing of
charity for Barira, but it is a gift for us.”
Meat was served even at the wedding of the Prophet, as narrated by the same
companion referred to above.
When Allah’s Apostle married Zainab bint Jahsh, he made the people eat meat and
bread to their fill (by giving a Walima banquet).
The verse of Al-Hijab (veiling of women), was revealed in connection with Zainab
bint Jahsh. (On the day of her marriage with him) the Prophet gave a wedding
banquet with bread and meat; and she used to boast before other wives of the
Prophet and say, “Allah married me (to the Prophet in the Heavens).”
Here is a part of the narration by Abu Hurairah (Ral), another companion of the
Prophet, which the doctor will be surprised to know, to show which part of the
animal was most liked by the Prophet.
Some (cooked) meat was brought to Allah’s Apostle and the meat of a forearm was
presented to him as he used to like it. He ate a morsel of it.
As regards slaughter, I would like to quote below a tradition, narrated by Al-Bara’
which requires us to slaughter as it is from the Sunna of the Prophet.
I heard the Prophet (pbuh) delivering a Khutba (sermon) saying, “The first thing
to be done on this day (first day of ‘Id ul Adha-Hadj Festival) is to pray; and
after returning from the prayer we slaughter our sacrifices (in the name of
Allah) and whoever does so, he acted according to our Sunna (traditions).
Hope the above clarifies all what the doctor would like to know about slaughter
and consumption of meat. In case he requires some more evidence, I would like
him to let us know his email ID, so that, not only me but also others could
brief him exhaustively.
Can journalists be independent?
Journalists or writers, world over, are harassed, persecuted, imprisoned or
eliminated physically or else destroyed intellectually.
Journalists have to conform to norms set by publishers or the employers and do
not have the independence to write freely without taking sides. They are free to
the extent that the publishers or employers allow them to be free.
There is no doubt that it would be ideal for journalists to express their views
without taking sides and express their views without prejudice. Nevertheless,
the journalist who does so, could face the risk of what he or she writes against
a powerful person, political party, religious body or social organisation and
will be considered dangerous to the security of the establishment. In that case
the chances of being harassed or persecuted cannot be ruled out. And that, in
fact, is the reality though it should not be.
Then again, in a democratic set up, a journalist or any person should be free to
write, express his or her views and have such views published. But in a
practical sense that does not happen and it is the publishers or the State that
calls the tune. Media freedom is at its best in countries such as America,
Japan, India and a few other countries. In most other countries there are
restrictions in some form or the other.
On the other hand the question arises whether it is humanly possible to resort
to independent writing when you have to take risks.
Former President J. R. Jayewardene once said that there is no ‘free media’ as
such. How far is that true?
Upali S. Jayasekera
Precautions to be followed when issuing cheques
These tips on how they operate will be a useful guideline…
Cheques are the popular mode of payment worldwide. If properly monitored they
have several advantages, some of which are as follows:
(1) Large sums of money need not be retained or transported and thereby losses
could be avoided.
(2) An official receipt is not essential for cheque payments, as you could
always obtain a certificate from the payment Bank, if necessary.
(3) Provides better control and internal check within the organisation.
(4) Avoids suppression of information. For eg: In India it is mandatory that any
payment above Rs. 50,000/- has to be made by cheque.
Crossings of cheques
Cheques drawn as “Cash” or in the name of a person without any crossings (two
parallel lines drawn at the corner of the cheque leaf without obstructing the
written instructions), could be encashed at the counter of the relevant Bank.
However, if the cheque has gone into wrong hands by mistake, the fraudulent
party cannot be identified. Therefore, it is always advisable to issue crossed
cheques which can be paid only through an account, so that the payment bank will
be in a position to identify the final, beneficiary if the necessity arises.
Cheques are crossed in one of the following methods:
(a) Simple crossing - can be paid through any Bank account
(b) “Not Negotiable” crossing -do-
(c) “Account Payee” crossing - paid through the Account of the person in whose
name the cheque has been drawn (drawee)
(d) Restricted “Account Payee” crossing - paid through the specified Bank
Account mentioned on the cheque leaf
In the case of “cash” cheques, if a person “A” steals the cheque from the drawer
- “B” and issues it to a third person “C” in settlement of dues owing to him,
“C” has the right to claim for the amount stated on the cheque from “B”, unless
“A” is caught and admits to stealing the cheque from “B”.
If the cheque is crossed: “not negotiable” then “C” loses his right for any
claim as he has no better title to the cheque than “A”. Therefore, utmost care
should be exercised when encashing such cheques presented by unknown persons.
Proceeds from a cheque crossed: “A/C payee” can be transferred only into the
account of the drawee or beneficiary. If the name of Bank, A/C No. etc are
stated on the cheque, then payment is restricted only to the specified Account.
These type of cheques are issued when making payments to the Dept. of Inland
Revenue, Customs Department etc.
This is the main drawback in accepting cheque payments and the payee faces many
difficulties when cheques presented to his bank are returned. Cheques are
returned with one or more of the following remarks and its fate has to be
I. Payment stopped by drawer - Collection is doubtful
II. Account closed - Do
III. Refer to Drawer - Funds not adequate in the Account
IV. Exceeds Arrangement - Do
v. Effects not realised - Payment could be collected
VI. Not arranged for - Funds not adequate in the Account
VII. Payment deferred pending - Collection is doubtful drawer’s confirmation
VIII. Stale cheque - Validity of the cheque has expired (usually (6 months).
Payment could be collected
IX. Alterations on cheque - Payment could be collected with due verified
certification by drawer
X. Account not verified - Usually accounts maintained in troubled areas of the
XI. Credit requires banker’s confirmation - The payment bank requires the
collection confirmation bank to confirm the authenticity of the drawee. This
happens for cheques issued by Government authorities. eg. EPF, ETF Depts.
XII. Credit Squeeze - Imposed by the Central Bank or Treasury
XIII. Account frozen - By order from a Court of Law or the Dept. of Inland
Precautions to be taken with regard to cheque operations
1. Cheque leaves/books should always be kept in safe custody
2. Operating mandate together with the list of authorised signatories should be
submitted to the relevant Bank and any changes therein should be notified
3. Alterations made on cheques should be specified and authorised.
4. Minimum two signatures should be mandatory for business organisations.
One man operation is not advisable.
5. Bank reconciliation should be done regularly
6. Close scrutiny is necessary with regard to:
a. Deposits not realised for a long period of time
b. Cheques issued not presented for payment
c. Proper bank debit tax charges. For eg: transfer of funds between two accounts
of the same party is exempt from Bank Debit Tax.
7. Bank Debit Tax is being imposed from 1.5.2002 on all payments. However,
exemption has been granted for special payments such as: Customs Duties, Tax
payments to the Dept. of Inland Revenue, Treasury Bills etc., provided a special
Account is opened with the approval of the Dept. of Inland Revenue.
There is a problem faced by the business community, when a cheque is returned by
the bank and the customer has not furnished the latest correct address
(innocently or fraudulently), and such customer cannot be contacted or traced.
In such instances the drawers’ bank also will not give the address of its client
without his consent. Suitable amendment has to be made in the law to rectify
this problem, where the bank should provide the client’s address when adequate
proof has been submitted for the claim on the cheque returned.
I presume the public at large will benefit from the details given above.
S. R. Balachandran
The National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka
On the 12th Death Anniversary of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga
Chanaka Amaratunga and political
Though there were elections in Sri Lanka prior to the introduction of the
Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, franchise was not universal in that early
period. A few left-wing political parties, especially the Lanka Sama Samaja
Party and its breakaway parties such as the Communist Party and the Bolshevik
Leninist Party were formed during the Donoughmore period.
The Labour Party of A.E. Gunasinghe was formed prior to the introduction of the
Donoughmore Constitution. These political parties gathered momentum through the
Marxist Leninist or Trotskyite ideology that prevailed in Europe at that time.
Armed with socialist ideas, leaders of these parties introduced certain
political principles to the Ceylonese body politic. Among these political
principles trade unionism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, anti-feudalism,
welfare of the common man, state ownership of means of production were
Most of the prominent and leading political figures during that period organised
themselves under the banner of Ceylon National Congress that did not have a
coherent ideology, though some of the members were akin to various political
ideologies prevailed in the contemporary Europe. Constitutional reform movement
pioneered by the Ceylon National Congress took momentum in parallel with the
global political developments during the World War II period.
Introduction of the Soulbury Constitution with the First-Past-the-Post electoral
system in 1947 gave way to the formation of political parties to contest
elections. Hasty formation of political parties was a result of the introduction
of the new Constitution. Yet, many independent candidates contested for the 1947
Parliamentary election and over 20 of them were successful. Sinhala Maha Sabha
of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was also absorbed into the United National Party led by
its pragmatic leader D.S. Senanayake.
During the first 10 years after independence, ideologies of Sinhala Buddhist
nationalism slowly and clearly entered into the two major political parties.
Sinhala Buddhist nationalism was anti-colonial and it suspected euro-centric
Marxist socialism. But Sinhala Buddhist nationalism as prevailed in Sri Lanka
had an element of welfarism as opposed to Marxist socialism. Beginning with the
1949 Citizenship Act that deprived the voting rights of the Indian plantation
population and coming to climax in 1955-56, both the United National Party and
the Sri Lanka Freedom Party stood for language disparity. It is a well-known
fact that Marxist ideologists who stood for equal rights of the people had
clearly explained the danger posed by the two major parties by introducing a
‘Sinhala Only’ policy.
Ceylonese economy even by the late 50s was a dual economy comprising plantations
and traditional rural economy and there was no pioneering local industrial
capitalist class to boost capitalist transformation. Even the political elite of
the day came from the land owning and professional sector. Due to the above
mentioned facts, the government of the day had to initiate industrialisation
through state sponsored corporations and services through various government
boards. On the other hand, nationalisation programmes initiated by S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike with blessings from the leading left-wing politicians also
discouraged the development of investment. The government of Dudley Senanayake
in 1965 and also the policies of Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted to retain a large
state sector, to provide employment opportunities to their political supporters.
Although both parties, when in government, had done yeoman service to develop
and introduce scientific agriculture to achieve the objective of
self-sufficiency, it is a goal not yet fulfilled.
A crucial change in our economy took place after 1977, but we liberals cannot
satisfy ourselves the way things improved in the economic front. While opening
up the trade sector with no clear industrial policy in hand, the 1977 regime was
not able to lead the country to the status of a newly industrialised country.
Further, authoritarianism engulfed in the 1978 Constitution had contributed to
political instability. The agitations of minorities and southern youth unrest
contributed to the age of terrorism and state terrorism.
The 1982 referendum, coupled with state terrorism, to postpone the Parliamentary
elections was an eye-opener to many who stood for democratic and political
rights of the people President J.R. Jayewardene greedily retained the 5/6
majority in Parliament he got from the 1977 election under First-Past-the-Post
Chanaka Amaratunga, analysing the political and economic developments in the
post-independent Sri Lanka and the Constitutional authoritarianism of President
Jayewardene, came to the direct conclusion that basic principles and norms of
liberal democracy were fast fading from the Sri Lankan polity and society. He
pointed out the need for a political ideology to clarify and understand the
issues facing the nation. It is noteworthy that political parties of many
liberal democracies in Europe are based on political ideologies such as
Conservatism, Liberalism or Social Democracy.
If one were to take a look at the two major parties that tasted political power
in the post-independent Sri Lanka, it is clear that the two parties had come
forward by addressing popular slogans peculiar to the majority Sinhalese
Chanaka, being a sensitive political scientist and an ardent liberal, used tools
of liberalism to analyse and understand the Sri Lankan polity and society. He
pointed out the value of the ‘individual’ as against class and nation. The
empowerment and the freeing of the individual from the fetters of illiteracy,
elitism and economic deprivation, lay in the development of market forces and
not in state monopoly.
He stressed the significance of constitutionalism and criticised both 1970 and
1978 Constitutions and pointed out the need for power sharing in a
multi-national and multi-religious society. He saw the declining quality of the
people’s representatives and stressed on the need of a second chamber.
Liberalism as a political philosophy has its own principles and tools. One of
its major tenets is supporting a Free Market Economy. In Sri Lanka it is the
United National Party that stood for open economy. However, Chanaka Amaratunga
pointed out that the UNP government of President J.R. Jayewardene was not
pushing a free market economy for Sri Lanka but only opening up trade by keeping
in hand a large state sector.
When the left intellectuals were attacking Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin
for the state of affairs in the Soviet Union, Chanaka pointed out the dynamics
of the Russian society that was yelling for change. He was concerned about the
rising nationalism in many countries after the collapse of socialism.
To spread his views and to engage in politics he needed a modern thinking
political party and in 1987 he formed the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. It is a
political party that is based on the liberal ideology. Hitherto in Sri Lanka
this political ideology was applied only by the parties with a left orientation,
in the form of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Mao Tse Tung Thought
etc. Ideologically, liberalism is against central economic planning by the state
and state monopoly. In the political front, liberalism opposes ‘one party rule’
whether it is of left or right origin. It supports representative democracy and
the idea of limited government. Thus liberalism poses a challenge for socialism
as well as nationalism of all breeds including fascism.
In developing the liberal ideology Chanaka understood the ideas of privatisation
and trends of globalisation and of digital age. He clearly emphasised that
economic policy debate is not taking up seriously within the United National
Party or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
It was liberals who developed the idea of welfarism in the British political
context. It is not illogical to think that the state alone can fulfil the
welfare needs of the people. Chanaka was fully supportive of the people-based
organisations aimed at promoting welfare and poverty alleviation. He was of the
view that schools managed by religious societies in the past were far better in
promoting education but admitted the validity or expansion of education
initiated by Dr C.W.W. Kannangara. He was critical of the fake private medical
college established during the J.R. Jayewardene period to promote the idea of
educating the children to face international examinations as the quotas in the
state university system is limited.
Chanaka was against land policies of both the SLFP and the UNP. While endorsing
nationalisation of foreign ownership of plantations he was critical of the
delimitation of land ownership. He pointed out that after nationalisation of
lands political stooges of ruling class were in control of them, which lead to
corruption and wastage.
Chanaka had an ideological view towards the national problem. As the aim of
liberals is to promote individual freedom, there is a need to protect minorities
and enhance their rights. To allow the minorities equal opportunities there must
be a power sharing formula. He differentiated the meaning between a unitary
constitution and unitary state.
He also pointed out that the united nature of the state would be retained even
under a power sharing political structure.
His understanding on various electoral systems paved the way to understand the
nature of German electoral system and the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka was the
first ever political party in Sri Lanka to promote the method in Sri Lanka.
As political intolerance, crony capitalism (the term he used to explain the UN
economic policy), human rights violations are prevalent in the island, the need
for principled politics is in great demand. So, on his 12th death anniversary,
which falls on August 1, 2008, all liberals and those who stand for democratic
rights can learn many lessons from the writings of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga and
his liberal ideology.