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Letter to the Editor: Let them drink sorrel; ban alcohol at government functions

“If we’re serious about reducing the foreign exchange drain, why not temporarily ban the use of alcohol at all government functions and on all government premises including the Diplomatic Centre and President’s House?”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Dennise Demming, the former TIDCO chairperson:

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (left) and his wife Reema Harrysingh-Carmona (centre) arrive in Buenos Aires for an international friendly between Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina in June 2014. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA)
Photo: President Anthony Carmona (left) and his wife Reema Harrysingh-Carmona (centre) arrive in Buenos Aires for an international friendly between Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina in June 2014.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA)

There was a time, not so long ago when the only juices you could enjoy at President’s House were sorrel juice, grapefruit juice, mauby, star apple juice and any juice that could be made using local fruits. I am told the fruits also came from the gardens on the premises.

That was a period when the office still held some awe and mystique.

Today, “the Hassanalis”—the late Noor Hassanali and his wife Zalayhar—are still spoken of in glowing tones as part of the good ole days. Because, while they were in office, the serving of home made juice at President’s House was seen as disruptive.

Fast forward to today and the Office has its own wine label at the expense of the citizens. There is inconsistency in the messaging here. On one hand we are saying that there is need for austerity while, on the other, we commission a private label wine for the President’s House.

The recent budget announced an increase in the sin taxes—meaning alcohol and tobacco—which is a good initiative. But if we are aiming to change the alcohol palette of the Trinbagonian, it didn’t go far enough.

Photo: Late former Trinidad and Tobago President Noor Hassanali. (Copyright Office of the President)
Photo: Late former Trinidad and Tobago President Noor Hassanali.
(Copyright Office of the President)

It should really have been a one hundred percent charge for all imported alcohol.

If we’re serious about reducing the foreign exchange drain, why not temporarily ban the use of alcohol at all government functions and on all government premises including the Diplomatic Centre and President’s House?

At least we could implement this tax while the country moves towards economic stability. An old saying comes to mind: “People do what you do and not what you say.”

There is a tremendous move to authenticity in today’s world and people are looking for behaviour which they can pattern. They do not respond to instruction.

If you want to call out the best of others you have to be the best you possible. If we want the population to understand the dire straights we are in, then our actions must be consistent.

The focus at the moment is on the Presidential label for his special wine but it is only a matter of time before someone leaks the bill for the Diplomat Centre and Household.

Photo: A glass of sorrel. (Copyright Caribbean and Co)
Photo: A glass of sorrel.
(Copyright Caribbean and Co)

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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  1. Maybe I’m missing something. Why do you feel alcohol should be a staple at the PM and President’s House at taxpayers expense? That bit about being an economic benefit obviously doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

  2. Never will that ever happen! !! Them like too much alcho lol

  3. Maybe I am missing something but what’s the issue with alcohol being served at official functions hosted by the PM or President

  4. See .. NOTHING has happened .. he’s the President … he’ll stay there and keep enjoying the high lifestyle .. only in this country this BS is tolerated ..

  5. I do recall President Hassanali banning alcohol drinks @ president’s house during functions. So what’s the big fuss. …….p.s. I stand to be corrected .

  6. No matter what this woman never looks tidy.

  7. Mr. Hassanali was a devout,practicing Muslim, therefore there was no alcohol and no outcry. It can be done and will stimulate local industry.

  8. I agree. The Government and all other officials representing T & T should observe this one sacrifice.

  9. Does anyone have the facts. Everyone is speculating , looking baccanal. There is a lot of information that is not being shared to get picture of the situation. All else is “hair say”- ?

  10. No way…we love alcohol at government functions…its what governs our constitution….our stupid laws

  11. Why temporary ? I’ve been calling for a total ban on alcohol at the Diplomatic Centre and President’s House

  12. Temporary ban on Alcohol at Govt functions yuh say ?
    Well start bottling up on TNT home grown Sorrel in readiness for the Presidential Seal .

  13. Sorry can’t condone 100% duty on liquor tongue in cheek or otherwise. As for all the talk about creating norms know this I embrace our rum drinking carnival mentality culture. Rather than sticking our heads in the sand and being hypocritical about who we are I say let we find ways to be efficient and productive about it and let it be a value adder in economic terms. How we do so is a whole other discussion but for now I going to take a sip.

    • Hahaha. I won’t accept a 100% duty at all. That will be leaving alcohol as a rich man’s pastime. But I do feel that politicians don’t need alcohol to entertain.
      My only compromise there would be local alcohol.

  14. Deborah John what was the reason behind the Hassanali’s not serving alcohol whilst Mr Hassanali was President?

  15. So kamla won’t be invited then

  16. And they had two terms it wont be a radical or unheard of move

  17. I believe when Mr Nope Hasanali was president there was no alcohol at state functions he hosted. That maybe subject to correction but that is what I was told.

  18. The Hassanalis did not serve alcohol at functions

  19. Lovely sentiment. But that would never fly! Like Vernal said politicians and presidents have become very used to champagne and caviar literally. Some of them wouldn’t drink Johnny unless it blue or gold.

  20. The operative word is ” If “.
    Ms Dennise Demming. Sorry to disappoint you but we are not serious about stemming the outflow of foreign exchange. Between October 2015 and October 2016 we have put more than 30000 vehicles on the road again .
    The president ( I refuse to put a capital p on purpose ) tells me that he needs to import presidential house wine. He could have commissioned a local fruit wine, but no, he ordered wine from Italy.
    The store shelves are full of imported products of every description and there is no end in sight of our binge behaviour.
    Ms Demming, dream on. As Sparrow sang : ” we like it so “.

  21. What will the President do with is presidential label wine? ??

  22. I making good local wine and it drinking very good better just like imported so start ordering from me and give me a sale ent they say support local IS this just for ordinary people to buy Local

  23. So you will have them drink babash instead then!?

  24. Great idea! They always looking to save money so why not.

  25. I don’t think that her suggestion is plausible (I do not know if the Hassanali’s didn’t serve alcohol for religious reasons) but it is expected that a function held at the office/residence of the Head Of State would have alcoholic beverages.

    Also I am sure that Ms Demming of all people knows the theory that tobacco is considered an elastic product and demand does not reduce with increases in price.

    • Because something is usually done isn’t a reason to keep doing it. The people have to adjust all the time, whether it is the speed gun or a new tax.
      I think the officials would survive.

    • Lasana Liburd whilst I agree with you in theory our economy is not at the point where we cannot afford to serve alcohol at functions held under the auspices of the President or PM, I think that anyone advocating same is just being mischievous.

    • Wow. Don’t stop there Nigel. Explain how our economy needs alcohol at government functions at taxpayers’ expense…

    • Now I think you are being mischievous as that is not what I said. Our head of state hosts officials both local and foreign countries and there are certains “norms” that go with those occassions. My point is our economy is not at the point where we cannot afford to have alcoholic beverages at these functions.

    • So Nigel, you think a Head of State would walk out of a function in Saudi Arabia or India because rum isn’t on the menu?
      You really believe there is a standardised taste where these things go? And that dignitaries are insulted if there is no liquor?

    • It is against the Law in Saudi Arabia to consume alcohol (not so sure about your reference to India) so it is not the same thing. My understanding of the point Ms Demming was making was that if we expect “ordinary citizens” to cut-back then so should persons in high office. In concept I agree with her point………but as I said there are certain norms that go along with hosting functions and the serving of wine is one of them.

    • Nigel, we can create our own norms. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, it is illegal. And other countries, like India–perhaps–it might run against their culture.
      A foreign head of state is happy to experience a bit of your culture. And, to be honest, sorrel is more charming than scotch which they can have anywhere.
      I thought you had something more substantial than “that is what they are accustomed to”. In some countries, the president keeps his shoes on. At others, he takes them off.
      They will live. And unless it is Trump, they won’t be put off by that.
      Unless you’re an alcoholic, you’re never insulted that the player you are a guest at for a few hours at best doesn’t serve alcohol.

    • Lasana do you think that our economy is at the point where we cannot afford to have alcohol at official functions hosted by the PM or President?

    • I think those two things are not even remotely linked to each other. And I’ve been to loads of functions without alcohol and thought nothing of it. (Granted that I’m not a head of state).

    • Nigel, you might be forgetting that no alcohol was served at President’s House for five years or however long Hassanali occupied that office.
      So you can test your theory by proving that this impacted negatively on our company and visiting heads of state during that period complained or refused to do business with us.
      Otherwise you are on shaky ground.

    • It was two terms. A full decade. Imagine that. Successive governments kept that non-alcoholic wrecking ball of our economy… ?

    • Lasana you forced me to go back and reread Ms Demming’s letter, wasn’t her premise that if we want to reduce the demand for foreign exchange then we should stop serving imported alcohol at official functions?

      My point was that our economy isn’t at the point that such measures are necessary. In my humble opinion there is a direct link

    • I am assuming that the Hassanali’s did it for religious reasons and not economic ones (but I have no clue)

    • The point isn’t why they did it Nigel. It has to be whether or not it impacted on us economically as you suggested it would.

    • Lasana i feel that we are spinning top in mud, ……….would there be less demand for foreign exchange if imported wines were served at the President’s and PM’s house…….yes, does our current economic situation warrant it…….No……..lets agree to disagree………

  26. Agree .Ban it and all the over indulgence for a while . The indigenous people I work with ..Santa Rosa First People’s have wonderful events without ‘alco’ the tradition of Babel ..can be discarded .

  27. I do not drink Alcohol ?, BUT WHY?! NO ONE WILL ATTEND??? THE FUNCTIONS!

  28. Sorrel ?….you trying to kill somebody… You don’t see what the president wife does be wearing?..that chick stay lit…..? ?

  29. Austerity starts at the top….

  30. Proverbs 20..

    Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

  31. This is an easy ban to make. Those who are truly interested in the function will attend regardless.

  32. That’s crazy talk.
    Some political parties entire ideology was influenced by and reliant upon the presence and promise of copious amounts of alcohol.
    And how then would we nominate presidents?
    Carmona imports it, Max used tuh vomit it outside stoosh fete!

  33. How about government officials, ministers, public servants returning from any official travel are NOT entitled to any duty free purchases!!!

  34. This is Rum Country. Has to be a joke.

  35. That’s a damn good idea and if they want alcohol have a cash only bar no credit

  36. That has already been done for government Ministries and agencies. We can’t use funds to purchase alcohol for staff functions.

  37. Follow the Hassanali model. It’s that simple.

  38. State enterprises started last Christmas; it would be a remarkable gesture from President House

  39. Modesty. I wonder if the Carmona’s even remember this word exists in the English language.

  40. Agreed. Given the amount of money we are talking about being spent on one household on alcohol alone-more than minimum wage workers earn in a year-and up to now I have not heard how many official functions were hosted, then certainly if this is done, it would save taxpayers. As for bill being leaked, there was an article a while ago about unpaid grocery bill at Hilo/Massy for President’s house, but can’t find the article as I am not sure if it was a weekly newspaper. And yes, the Hassanalis saved the country a lot in their 8 years in office.

  41. Taxes have been increased on alcohol and cigarettes in the 2017 budget. If tax payers in their private capacity have decided to stop drinking hard stuff or smoking cigarettes why should they pay the increased taxes for others.

    • Taxes on cigarettes don’t stop people from smoking. Here in the US, some cities and states, institutions, have raised taxes on cigarettes, or stopped selling cigarettes, and people still smoke. NY cigarettes are $12/box, and you don’t get half packs in the US. People in NY still smoke. CVS Pharmacy, has stopped the sale of cigarettes at ALL it’s locations across the country. People still smoke.

  42. Ha ha. Govt productivity will further go down