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Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

Thursday, September 2, 1999

The decision by the police to crack down on illegal sales of alcohol is overdue and welcome.

Everybody in Fiji knows where to buy booze after hours.

In a way, the bootleggers provide a public service by supplying liquor when legal outlets are prevented by law from competing.

The fact that there is public demand for the modernizing of our archaic liquor licensing laws is undeniable.

Business is brisk for the bootleggers.

It's a crime that's all but impossible to police successfully.

For wherever there's a willing buyer and an equally willing seller within talking distance of each other, trade will take place.

It's human nature and it isn't about to change.

The original purpose of the liquor licensing laws is probably lost in the mists of time -- but that doesn't mean that there should be no restrictions on the sale.

Legal traders are bound by strict regulations that cover, for instance, the sale of liquor to minors or to intoxicated people.

The bootleggers face no such restrictions.

Experience overseas suggests that a relaxation of the liquor licensing laws has all but eliminated the bootleggers while permitting honest traders to be more flexible.

Given more time to enjoy their favorite tipple in a more relaxed manner, there is less pressure on drinkers to line up the glasses before the bar closes.

Of course there will always be those who overindulge and make nuisances of themselves. But the restriction on liquor sales hasn't made them any scarcer just as there is no reason to believe that a relaxation of the laws would make the practice more prevalent.

These people have always been with us and probably always will be.

Restricting the hours of licensed trading makes no difference to them.

But making a criminal of, for instance, the shift worker who wants to buy a bottle of beer on the way home makes the law an ass.

The maize of laws and regulations that govern the sale of alcohol in Fiji needs a major overhaul.

Apart from anything else, the rules need to be capable of comprehension by traders and buyers alike.

And, in the meantime, when the police hold their no doubt highly popular booze auctions, we suggest they do so on licensed premises and within the hours set down by the law. And if they can work out those requirements, they might explain them to the rest of us.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times).

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