Sin Chew Daily
Beginning Nov 1, DBKL bans the sale of liquor at grocery stores, convention stores and traditional Chinese medical halls in the city.
It has been said that the ban has been announced almost a year in advance but even then the ban still comes as something unfair to the operators and may affect the business of over 10,000 retail operators, especially at a time businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic slump.
The ban was supposed to have been implemented from this October but the directive was deferred for one month to allow for communication between the city hall and interested parties. Unfortunately after the meetings, the win-win solution promised by federal territories minister Shahidan Kassim has not materialized, and the directive is not any different from the previous one in content, much to the disappointment of business operators.
Shahidan says this matter is not just about the interest of the operators but must also take into consideration the rights of the consumers, adding that the Keluarga Malaysia government respects the feelings of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The thing is, DBKL says the latest directive has been issued only after in-depth studies, even though the authorities have never published the report of relevant studies.
If they claim they have conducted the studies, then there should be no reason for them to hide anything from us.
Shahidan says the authorities have found that there are more than enough liquor sale permits in addition to the facts alcohol has been allegedly sold to minors and liquors not approved by the health ministry have been in sale.
KL excise licensing board chairman Jason Lau Beng Wei said the same thing last year, highlighting that the liquor sale guidelines were mainly targeting sale locations and time and to control the product quality and public sale for the sake of Malaysians’ health.
The authorities stress that the guidelines do not involve the sale of beers which can still be sold at grocery stores, convenience stores and traditional Chinese medical halls on condition the sellers comply with the rules and regulations.
Moreover, products categorized as medicated liquors by the health ministry can still be sold at Chinese medical halls. However, from the feedback of relevant operators, the authorities apparently do not understand their needs and the problems they face.
Local liquor dealers have been consistently abiding by the various rules set by DBKL on the sale of liquor and there have been hardly any issue with this all this while, including the sale of liquor to minors or Muslims, while customers have exercised very high degree of self discipline.
Denying the rights of innocent dealers and consumers is therefore extremely unfair to them and contravenes the prime minister’s “Keluarga Malaysia” spirit.
KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall feels that the guidelines have failed to provide valid reasons to ban the sale of liquor at grocery stores, convenience stores and traditional Chinese medical halls, while green light is given to supermarkets, hypermarkets and shopping malls.
Grocery stores and traditional Chinese medical halls are small- and medium-sized enterprises that make only meager profits, a major part of them coming from the sale of liquor. Excessive restrictions and complicated application procedures will adversely impact their operations and squeeze their profit margins.
At a time many businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic slump, the authorities should by right provide them a more conducive environment and adequate assistance to help them carry on with their businesses instead of setting more rules to restrict them.
Once the ban is implemented in KL, it will likely be emulated by other local governments across the country.
From what we understand, some local governments are already trying to impose similar bans in areas within their jurisdictions, including the Selama district council in Perak, further denying the rights of non-Muslim consumers elsewhere in the country.
Although the authorities claim that the ban has been imposed for the sake of the people’s health and social order, religious consideration could have played a major role in their decision-making.
Indeed, as the minister has pointed out, strict liquor sale guidelines do exist in many other countries, too. However, if we were to compared the guidelines we used to have here and those in other countries, we should realize that ours are actually much stricter, and as such there is no need to introduce new directives.
Given the high compliance rate among the operators in the past, the new liquor sale guidelines should be more lenient and not more demanding.
The authorities should allow the operators more freedom to run their businesses instead of wasting so much effort to make life difficult for them.