COLOMBO : Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abegunawardena told media in Kalutara on Saturday,September 18 that liquor sales outlets around the country have been opened with the permission of the government, whereas the Deputy Director General of Public Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said here on the same day that the Ministry of Health has not taken any decision to open the liquor outlets in the country.
The minister said : “Without permission from the government, these liquor outlets cannot be opened. Licensed liquor outlets around the country are now open after the government granted permission.”
Citing reasons for granting permission, Minister said that there were many who had purchased spirits produced illegally in villages, which is a health risk.
Speaking to the media, Dr. Herath said that there is no basis or argument to allow the opening of liquor outlets given the current situation, especially in a country where all other businesses are closed.
” In such a situation the Ministry of Health does not encourage the sale of liquor,” He stated.
Commenting on the crowds observed at liquor stores, the Deputy Director General of Health also stated that it is not possible to allow health workers to break into liquor stores and manipulate crowds to behave accordingly, as it is up to law enforcement.
In addition, he stated that most decisions are taken by a mechanism between the health sector and the security forces, however authorities dealing with this matter are Police and Excise Departments. The Deputy Director General of Health Services also stated that decisions regarding reopening establishments are usually taken by the Government with the involvement of the health sector and the security forces.
” If situations like these continue to occur in the future and people gather like this, I think we will have no choice but to go back to where we started.” He mentioned.
However, according to the quarantine regulations imposed under the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance No. 03 of 1897, the competent authority is the Director General of Health Services.
DG Health Services imposed the curfew on the island on the 11th September and extended it.
In announcing the situation, the Director General of Health Services did not permit to reopen wine stores in the country
Deputy Director General of Health stated that he was aware that the competent authority, the Director General of Health, had not given any approval for that.
However, the Excise Department announced yesterday that it has allowed the opening of wine stores and places selling beer cans and bottles.
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