Of liquor, Election Day

At times the public interprets the wrong message from print and electronic media even though the news report was correctly broadcasted.

I was recently criticised for suggesting that the Elections Law (2004 Revision) be revised to allow alcohol consumption on Election Day, which was a total misrepresentation of what I had said during an interview with News 27’s Ms Tammi Sulliman

What I did say was that the prohibition against the sale and dispensation of alcohol during the period of polling, created by the Elections Law, was intended to prevent alcohol consumption on Island and not broadly restrict commerce by barring the export of alcohol via sea or airport or prevent sales to ships or aircraft where there was no chance of alcohol being consumed here on the Island. Many countries across the world implement dry days on election day, most probably because it is perceived that persons may drink and that their decision making process could be impaired.

There is no such danger in duty free sales only.

I also said that in my 25 years of business this problem arises every time we enter an election period yet no one has stepped forward to address this anomaly in the law. In my view we need a balanced approach, one which will permit commerce while at the same time preserving the integrity of the election process. This ban unnecessarily affects thousands of our visitors who are departing on Election Day either by ship or aircraft that purchase liquor for consumption off island.

The other abnormality with the election law is that it does not permit the chairman to exercise discretion to make any exemptions on Election Day. Under Section 11 (a) of the Liquor Licensing Law licensees are not permitted to sell liquor on Sundays, Christmas Day or Good Friday unless they receive exemptions from the chairman in specified circumstances such as when the establishment is a bar serving an airport or any duty free liquor store located in an airport in respect of out going passengers only. Note the intent of the law is to accommodate our visitors/traveling residents on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday but nowhere does the law permit the chairman to exercise discretion to lift exemptions on Election Day. This is the section that the liquor licensing board was trying to use to assist our visitors on this Election Day and published the notice in the local papers. Unfortunately the Liquor Licensing Law does not permit him to do so and therefore the Election Law ban is absolute. It is my view that this should be reviewed and the law amended to permit the Chairman to lift the ban on Election Day in the limited circumstances I have already mentioned.

It is not Tortuga Rum Company alone that’s affected by the ban of duty-free sales on Election Day other operators such as Jacques Scott, Island Companies, Blackbeard’s, Bodden Freeport in addition to five cruise ships and a full airline schedule on the 20th May will affect thousands of our visitors on that day.

If the powers that be – whether that be the legal department the Governor or the Governor in Council – does nothing this will continue to happen not only on Wednesday, the 20th May, 2009, but every four years thereafter.

Maybe a response from the legal department as to the intent/ interpretation of the law in this regard and ultimate review of the law will be helpful.

Robert Hamaty – CEO Tortuga Rum Co. Ltd.