KUALA LUMPUR: In a multiracial and diverse culture country like Malaysia, the government should respect the non Muslim community’s fundamental right to sell, purchase and consume liquor which has existed since the nation’s formation, said Tan Sri T.C Goh, president of The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong).
He added that the government should also take into serious consideration the adverse impact of banning or restricting liquor sale could essentially inflict on the nation’s economy.
He was responding to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary’s statement on Saturday that, the government has not ruled out the possibility of expanding the ban on selling liquor at sundry and grocery shops, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops, to other states, besides the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.
Goh expressed concern that if such a policy becomes a reality, it would inevitably exacerbate tension between Muslim and non Muslim communities over certain issues, and this would be detrimental to racial harmony and unity.
He also expressed doubt over Ahmad Marzuk’s claim that the government received positive feedback in general from civil society including Muslims and non-Muslims, following the announcement by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKK) on its decision to ban liquor sale at sundry and grocery shops, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops starting October 2021.
Goh who is also the President of The Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) opined that the government had not really listened to the views of the non Muslim community, as well as those affected business operators.
He said, feedback gathered from the ground, whether in Kuala Lumpur or nationwide, clearly indicated that the non Muslim community was against such a move. He thus urged the government and the relevant authorities to respect the wish of the people, and not to force it upon them.
In a response issued today, he also disagreed with Ahmad Marzuk’s remark that the decision to ban liquor sale is final and cannot be reviewed.
“Even such an important matter like the national budget and the Prihatin stimulus package can be debated and be revised, what else can’t be reviewed and revised? Furthermore, this is just guidelines issued by City Hall.
“We are a democratic country, and liquor sales have existed for more than six decades without any issue. Hence, why is this issue being relentlessly stirred up in the recent years? What’s the logic that the latest policy to ban liquor sale cannot be reviewed or improved?” Goh questioned.
On Ahmad Marzuk’s claim that he received complaints from employees of some convenience stores that they were forced to sell alcohol, Goh said the relevant authority could always make necessary adjustment in its guidelines on alcohol sale, instead of issuing a one-size-fits-all policy which inevitably affects all convenience stores, sundry and grocery shops, especially those located in predominantly non Muslim areas.
He said, while he is not against the government restricting alcohol sale in areas which residents are predominantly Muslims or near the mosque and surau, such restriction should not affect the non Muslim areas.
He continued that even though DBKL has subsequently clarified that the new liquor licensing guidelines issued by DBKL are not meant to restrict the sale of liquor in the city but to regulate the availability of hard liquor in certain premises, it was nonetheless an undeniable fact that the conditions for liquor sale have been tightened up without a proper and adequate consultation with the affected business operators.
“We believe the relevant authority has failed to take into consideration the views and proposals of the affected business operators,” he said.
Goh underscored that, the government has the power to review and make appropriate improvements to the proposed guidelines, such as requiring the business operator to provide a designated area for alcohol sale within the business premises, to impose age restriction on the customers, or even to review the locations and business hours for businesses involved in liquor sale, which are more in line with the present era.
He thus hoped the government could immediately review the said policy, and to conduct a dialogue with all quarters, the affected business operators in particular, to listen to their views and proposals, in order to achieve a ‘win-win’ solution to the issue.
“The relevant authority should not mix alcohol with social issues; it should also avoid Islamisation of its administration as it would inevitably give people the impression that Islamisation is underway,” he said.
He further stressed that, amidst the devastating economic recession induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government should better focus its resources and efforts on fighting the pandemic, besides stepping up efforts to stimulate economic recovery. He said, this is extremely crucial, so as to better assist the people and business to stay afloat and to get through this unprecedented crisis.-pr/BNN