The government should take a role in changing the culture of alcohol drinking

Dear Editor,

In the Kaieteur News of Sunday, February 15, it was reported that the Chutney competition is without a sponsor, and that the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport might have rejected a sponsor because they did not want the event to turn into a “rum drinking event.”

These developments are welcome, given the blatant sponsorship of the Chutney components of Carifesta 2008 by El Dorado Rum. On January 18, 2009, there was a report in the Stabroek News in which Minister Anthony noted that the ministry has had to use alcohol sponsorship selectively “at events meant for adults and not for children.” Alcohol use by adults is a significant problem and the government should be taking a role to change the culture of alcohol drinking. The reports of the Banks DIH AGM in that same edition of Stabroek News noted that profits were the largest reported. There is a disconnect between the high profits of the alcohol industry in Guyana, and the amount and quality of services available for those whose lives are destroyed by alcohol.

It is a shame that President Jagdeo has not assented to the ‘drink driving laws.’ Public funds are being used to ‘educate’ persons, while drivers under the influence have wreaked havoc on the roads, especially during December 2008. There is nothing like word of mouth to educate as the charges are laid and the drivers under the influence spread the word that the government is serious about this law.

It is good to note the extensive work being done on stopping the use of tobacco, and we can hope that the same will one day be true about alcohol which has had a more significant effect on our society than tobacco. Education and changing cultural acceptance is key to changing the use of narcotics. Prohibition of these substances has not worked to eliminate their usage.

Hopefully, 2009 will see more positive and activist approaches taken by the government as it assumes the responsibility for its own role in shifting the culture on alcohol use in Guyana. It will not be easy.

Yours faithfully,
Vidyaratha Kissoon

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