DBKL urged to reverse latest liquor ban for infringing on non-Muslims

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Guidelines unfair and ineffective.

Federal lawmakers in the city have urged the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and the federal territories minister to reverse the decision to prohibit the sale of liquor at all convenience stores, grocery stores, and Chinese medicine halls.

After the ban came into effect yesterday, the seven MPs said in a joint statement that the ruling was inconsistent with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s “Malaysian Family” concept.

They alleged the prohibition to be an attempt by the government to obstruct the rights of businesses from operating effectively and disrespectful to the cultures of non-Muslims who moderately consume hard liquor for either health or culinary purposes.

“DBKL and the minister must respect the way of life and cultures of all Malaysian citizens, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims.

“We are unanimous that the new DBKL guideline to prohibit sundry shops, convenience stores, and Chinese medical halls from selling hard liquor effective November 1 as unfair, oppressive towards business owners, and a burden to the non-Muslim communities.

“With that, we are asking DBKL and the minister to consider reversing the new ruling and respect the rights and freedom of non-Muslim communities in Kuala Lumpur,” they said.

The MPs are Tan Kok Wai (DAP-Cheras), Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), Fong Kui Lun (DAP-Bukit Bintang), Datin Tan Yee Kew (PKR-Wangsa Maju), Hannah Yeoh (DAP-Segambut), Lim Lip Eng (DAP-Kepong) and P Prabakaran (PKR-Batu).

The MPs said repeated attempts to meet with FT Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim along with several business associations have been futile, and that the minister appeared to be unconcerned with the plight and feedback from those affected by the ruling.

Further justifying the ban as being unreasonable, the MPs said businesses affected by the ruling through the Associated Liquor Merchants Association of Malaysia have always complied with the existing rulings on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

They argued that guidelines such as restricting sale to non-Muslims above the age of 21 were sufficient to prevent any Muslims or adolescents from buying them.

With the ban now enforced, the MPs noted that business owners would suffer in terms of their revenue and ultimately affect the image of Kuala Lumpur’s status as a World Class City that celebrates the diversity of its denizens.

“We are also pleading with the government to be fair to everyone. Just because we dislike something, we need to ban it when said things are a part of the customs and culture of others.

“We respect Islam, and we are aware that alcohol is forbidden to Muslims but what is forbidden for Muslims cannot be forced upon non-Muslims especially in the issue of consumptions,” they added.

Shahidan previously defended the ruling in the Dewan Rakyat, stating that the ban was to ensure alcohol would not be made available in public places and to curb social problems and ensure that those under age 21, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would not easily get their hands on alcoholic beverages.

Under the new prohibition, beer will still be allowed to be sold although only between 7am and 9pm, and placed away from other beverages.

The ruling also states that businesses in front of police stations, places of worship, schools, and hospitals may not sell alcohol.

At present, businesses that are allowed to sell alcohol include restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, commercial complexes, warehouses, supermarkets, hypermarkets. These places are also allowed to hold promotional activities that serve liquor.

In November last year, Chinese medicine hall and sundry shop proprietors had anticipated dark days ahead over the liquor sales restriction that would see their dwindling revenue further diminish.

Initially set to be enforced on October 1 this year, the ban was postponed for a month.

Meanwhile, business owners in Kuala Lumpur are up in arms over DBKL’s decision to ban the sale of liquor at convenience stores, sundry shops and Chinese medicine halls.

They are calling the guidelines unfair and ineffective, adding that the move would only worsen the struggle of business owners to recover from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

KK Group of Companies founder and group executive chairman Datuk Seri Dr KK Chai, whose company owns more than 200 KK Super Mart outlets in Kuala Lumpur, said the new guidelines would dramatically affect retailers.

”Having such unfair guidelines in the capital city of Malaysia is detrimental to various retail industries, especially when the country is on the road to recovery from the pandemic.

”We do not only (sell) liquor to local consumers but also foreign investors, expatriates as well as tourists.

“These guidelines could affect over 10,000 retailers in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

Chai also questioned whether the Federal Territories Ministry had discussed the move and its economic impact with other ministries such as the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

Federal Territory and Selangor Chinese Medicine/Drug Dealers Association president Loh Kim Fong said with the guidelines, the unsold stock could amount to RM500,000 in losses for each outlet.

“It is unlikely we can return the stock to the suppliers and Chinese medicine hall operators have to bear the cost.

”Depending on the size, a medicine hall can suffer from RM50,000 to RM500,000 in losses.

“About 300 Chinese medicine hall owners in Kuala Lumpur have expressed their worries and disappointment over the liquor sale restrictions,” he said.

The guidelines also state that Chinese medicine halls are required to obtain approvals from the Health Ministry for the sales of mixed or pure liquor for medicinal purposes.

For beer, business owners must prepare a separate display space for sale of the beverage that must be locked or barred after the permitted time.