Mangala draws fire from docs

Claim that beer is better than sweetened drinks

The Government Medical Officers Forum (GMOF) has accused Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera of deceiving the public in a bid to promote beer sales.

GMOF President Dr. Rukshan Bellana yesterday told that they would soon request President Maithripala Sirisena not to allow anyone with vile aims to exploit the public. Dr. Bellana emphasized that there was absolutely no basis for Minister Samaraweera’s claim that drinking beer was better than drinking sweetened soft drinks.

The GMOF has decided to take it up with President Sirisena following a meeting of its members on Saturday.

The GMOF spokesperson said that the yahapalana administration should be ashamed of an obvious project to promote beer by telling lies.

In response to a query raised by JVP MP Sunil Handunetti during the Minister Samaraweera’s speech in the second reading stage debate on Budget 2018 on Friday, the UNPer said: “In many countries, 80% of people who drink consume beer. Hard liquor consumers account for only a small percentage of drinkers. But, in our country it is the other way around. Around 84 percent of Sri Lankans who consume alcohol drank hard liquor. I do not see anything wrong with a person drinking beer. We have not imposed any tax on sugar. The tax is on the sugar content of the sweetened drinks”.

Dr. Bellana said they were certainly not worried about the government reducing the price of beer to encourage consumption. Dr. Bellana said that if the yahapalana government policy was to promote beer it could do so without misleading the public. Dr. Bellana emphasized that contrary to Minister Samaraweera’s claim, sugar content in beer was high and the beer promotion could have disastrous impact on the population.

With approximately 20 per cent of the population suffering from diabetes and the health authorities struggling to contain the situation, beer promotion project could cause a serious health issue, Dr. Bellana said, warning of diabetes being doubled in 20 years.

The GMOF chief said that the country would become a laughing stock if an attempt was made to promote beer as a healthy drink.

The GMOF spokesperson said that drinking of hard liquor, beer as well as smoking shouldn’t be promoted by the government under any circumstances. According to him, alcohol consumption could never be reduced by promoting beer as the strategy could result in higher sales. It would be the responsibility of President Sirisena to take tangible measures to stop promoting beer sales on the basis it was healthier than sweetened soft drinks.

Dr. Bellana said that with vast majority of families struggling to make ends meet, it would be a crime to promote drinking and smoking. Referring to President Sirisena participating in a walk at the Galle Face on Sunday (Nov 12) to create awareness among the population, Dr. Bellana asserted that such exercises would be meaningless if his own government promoted beer sales in the guise of curbing sweetened soft drinks.

Dr. Bellana said that as the budget was the government’s policy statement, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration owed the public an explanation as regards controversial bid to promote beer.

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