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No alcohol at State functions

GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, December 12 2012

Government should implement a ban on the offering and use of alcoholic beverages at all official functions, whether these events are organised by the State, Government ministries or State Enterprises.

The instituting of such a ban would be an unquestionable signal of Government’s concern at the rising tide of consumption of alcohol at fetes and off the road bars, particularly by owners and operators of vehicles who, despite their condition, insist on driving. It would also convey to impressionable youngsters that they should drink less.

This column wishes to make it clear that it is not promoting the outright outlawing of alcohol, as this, not unlike the growth and or transshipment of illegal drugs may prove difficult to enforce.

While this is outside of the area of the suggested ban, Trinidadians and Tobagonians, nevertheless, will recall that a former President of the twin-island State, His Excellency the late Noor Hassanali, banned the offering and use of alcoholic beverages at functions at President’s House during his tenure. While it may be reasoned that President Hassanali in doing this had been prompted by religious persuasions, what is of critical import is that it was done and could provide a guide to any future Government ban on the serving of liquor at official functions.

The timing of the appeal for the prohibiting of alcohol at these events has added significance during the current Christmas Season and the fast approaching Carnival Season, when there is a heightened use of intoxicating spirits.

Although the appeal has been restricted, nonetheless, in the United States, an earlier Administration had gone several steps further, when on December 18, 1917 Congress adopted the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, prohibiting “the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States”. While, admittedly, the actual enforcing of the law proved a lengthy process, as the 18th Amendment itself never became effective until January 16, 1920, more than two years later, advocates of temperance, abstinence from alcohol, were understandably pleased, with famed American evangelist, Billy Sunday, trumpeting: “You were God’s worst enemy. You were Hell’s best friend.

“The reign of tears is over.”

But that was an extreme situation, which saw thousands of agents across the country seeking out and laying charges against countless numbers of Americans, who sought to defy the law through the illicit use of grain converted into alcohol or even importing liquor into the United States. This column is not going as far as advocating the outright prohibition of the production and/or use of alcoholic beverages, but merely advancing that the use of these beverages should be banned from official functions.

Clearly, there is no need for taxpayers’ money to be used to encourage people to guzzle liquor. Instead, as noted earlier, positive examples have to be set for the young. This column will argue until the setting of the sun that a guest at an official function, citizen or otherwise, does not have to consume or over consume alcohol, either to appreciate the significance of the event or to enjoy the company and conversation of other invitees.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to know the cost incurred by the provision of alcoholic beverages, most of them very expensive, at these official functions, many of them distinctly unnecessary. And to make it worse there have been reports of alcohol being taken away or put aside. Let us send appropriate signals to the young citizens of our nation that it is not necessary to consume alcohol.

Meanwhile, drivers and/or operators of vehicles, who are attending limes or parties, generally, and who have a demonstrated weakness for over consumption of alcohol should take the precaution of having designated drivers, that is individuals in their groups who do not drink alcohol or will not be taking strong drinks at the events. There should be an effective police presence outside of these limes or parties, including official functions, with officers detailed to warn owner/operators of vehicles who are clearly above the limit and to charge those who do not comply.

This would be for the benefit of the drivers themselves as well as other passengers in the vehicles. And, incidentally, for other users of the road, including persons awaiting transport at points along the way.

Interestingly, some of these drivers may themselves have been introduced, quite innocently to alcohol at social functions. While any decision by Government to ban the offering and use of alcoholic beverages at official functions is its prerogative, nevertheless, this column believes and insists it should be effected and the earlier the better.

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