COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena announced on Sunday that he had instructed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Mangala Sam­a­raweera to cancel last week’s gazette notifications revoking the prohibition of selling liquor to women and the extension of the time period during which liquor shops may be kept open.

Sirisena told a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) public meeting that both the gazette notifications would be cancelled upon the return of Minister Mangala Samaraweera who is currently in India.

The president’s announcement coming ahead of the February local government elections, is generally thought to be a decision pre-empting former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new political party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) using liberalisation of liquor sales to portray it as an affront of the culture. Rajapaksa has a history of portraying the current UNP-SLFP coalition government as a pro-West regime that seeks to overturn the traditional cultural taboos in Sri Lanka.

Sirisena’s SLFP, a centre left party, which upholds traditional Lankan values, cohabits with the liberal right wing United National Party (UNP) which Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe heads.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2018