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Rajpal's Column

15th November 1998

The pure, the free and beautiful, et al.

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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Press Puritanism is the topic of a certain writer who seems to have got a heavy load off his chest in a Sunday newspaper of last week. His timing for taking on Puritanism however was perfect, because this was the week in which the government enforced a ban on all liquor sales for three days on account of an international Buddhist conference. Small wonder the Observer didn't have an editorial on the subject"!

Anyway, to get to the point, our Sunday liberal thinks that the press was betraying a 'Puritan' streak because of the now famous quizzing of the AG on a potential obstruction of justice issue recently.

It was a totally 'Koheda yanne mallepollish' article that our Sunday school liberal delivered himself of. Frankly, if a writer does not have the discernment to see the difference between an obstruction of justice issue and an adultery issue, he should not be writing for the Sunday newspapers.

As if we care who the AG slept with, be it any Tom Dick or Harriet (underline Tom and Dick too) Our writer, MM let us call him, says he didn't know state officeholders were accountable to the public on whom they slept with.

The reality is that the public or the press are just not interested who state officers slept with, or in what manner and on what. Let the sleeper sleep but not lie, is the going credo here.

But MM must be a madman if he thinks that obstruction of justice does not concern the public. And then, if he can't see that the whole issue about the AG affair was over a potential obstruction of justice issue that concerns an alleged adulterous relationship, he must be purblind.

With a 'gotcha gloat' in his voice, MM thinks he has finally discovered the Achilles heel of the press. Aha, they are puritans. Gee, they think the AG shouldn't sleep. MM has gotten nothing, except that he shows he has got no discernment to do an objective story that does right by the reading public. MM is totally woolly headed for instance on the fact that there are potential victims in this whole issue.

There is a man who has repeatedly written to successive Presidents saying justice has not been served on him because somebody obstructed the process. The obstruction of justice issue concerned an adulterous relationship, and that is the only reason, Mr. Beanhead, that the AG was quizzed on adultery. Press pack being puritan indeed! Half the press pack was baying last week saying that they can't have a good wholesome drink of beer because some puritan government has closed liquor outlets because of a Buddhist conference. Maybe the press just can't hold their puritanism, eh what?

The bigger thing than MM in this whole flare up is that the spin doctors attempt to obfuscate the issue. It should be arrested before it's too late. If a nation loses its civic consciousness to the extent that it thinks an aggrieved party cannot complain against what he perceives as obstruction of justice, it's a gross violation of civic duty on the part of its citizens. Even in a civil case, there are victims. There are aggrieved parties.

In adultery too, there are victims. So is society supposed to leave these victims to their own devices, because society has some spurious idea that an adulterous relationship should not be talked about in public? That's like saying that a bigot who kills a man of another race should not be punished because it's impolite to talk of race in the public discourse!

It is true that some sections of the press may have tried to paint adultery as an offense per se, which of course is to take matters too far. But its galling that MM tries to paint the whole press as a baying pack of Puritan witch hunters, without so much as bothering to mention that there was a potential obstruction of justice issue connected with the adultery matter over which he gets his knickers in such a twist.

Anyway, so that's how the press ended up being labelled as puritan while they were going about with parched throats because a government, which backs a liberal AG one might add, liberally decided to close down pubs and bars for three days on account of an international Buddhist conference. Maybe it was thought that the inebriated revelers at Otters would scale the BMICH wall and proceed to disrupt the Buddhist conference in a drunken binge. In that case the government could have closed the Otters Acquatic club only. A prohibitionist government, even for three days, is a puritanical humbug for the simple reason that this is also an essentially secular government that encourages a multi-ethnic state.

Aren't Christians supposed to party just because there is an international Buddhist conference on , and why should Buddhist piety be poured down the throats of say the Pharsees or the Hindus?

These queries may sound flippant but they strike at the core of what's wrong with a system that wants to retain its hegemony whenever it can over the minorities.

It is funny for more reasons than one that it is this government headed by this President which tends to think there is no such thing as a wholesome drink. The country is veering dangerously towards prohibition by default, because the moratorium on liquor advertisements and the increase in the price of liquor may only be a first step towards enfeebling the concept of a wholesome drink.Drink does damage without a doubt, but that's old hat, and it's old hat also that persecuting clean liquor is an act resorted to by overzealous knaves.

The evils of excessive liquor are obvious, but the state cannot be oblivious to the fact that it is an elitist form of puritanism to knuckle down to the temperance lobby.All societies harbour folks who favour an overbalance, and the ban liquor lobby is overbalanced in its reaction to the evils of excessive liquor. There is simply no consensus that liquor is totally bad and objectionable even though the so and so's in the prohibitionist campaigns seem to think so. Those who practice controlled drinking in other words, are to be held to ransom by a bunch of over-reactors who can't hold their liquor in the bargain. That's just to rub it inů.


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