Online liquor plans shattered
Covid Task Force rejects Excise request
Decision followed health, economic, and legal arguments against plan
By Dinitha Rathnayake
Putting to rest an intense discourse that had developed around whether liquor purchasing should be allowed online, the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of the Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) has decided not to permit consumers to purchase liquor online, according to NOCPCO Task Force Head Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva.
The Finance Ministry approved the request made by the Excise Department to allow the sale of liquor online on 16 June, and afterwards, the matter had been sent for final approval to the NOCPCO Task Force yesterday (17).
The Excise Department told The Morning on 16 June that the Task Force would likely give approval to allow the purchase of alcohol online. The request for the online sale of alcohol was made by the Excise Department due to the travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, the Excise Department request was slammed by several parties, especially medical practitioners. The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) expressed their grave concerns over the Finance Ministry’s decision to permit the online sale of liquor. They requested the Government not to grant permission for the online sale of alcohol which, according to them, would make matters worse for all Sri Lankans already suffering from many hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) also requested President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take all possible measures to prevent the violation of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act No. 27 of 2006 and the Excise Ordinance during this pandemic situation.
“It has been shown beyond doubt that the annual economic cost of alcohol far outweighs the income generated from alcohol taxes. Therefore, we earnestly request that you refrain from implementing this unhealthy proposal at this critical juncture which is bound to add more misery to families that are already suffering from grave difficulties due to the current pandemic,” the AMS said.
According to the Sri Lanka Liquor Licensees Association which wrote to the Excise Commissioner General regarding the same, selling liquor online is a violation of the Excise Notification Number 666, according to which the boundaries of any licensed premises should be recorded in the license itself and that once the said boundaries of the licensed premises are recorded in the license, the operation of the said license should be confined to the same. Therefore, they noted that any sale of liquor must occur within said premises, and not outside.